Excerpt from A Spy by Nature by Charles Cumming, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Spy by Nature

A Novel

by Charles Cumming

A Spy by Nature
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2007, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2008, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


“Absolutely, yes.”

She withdraws and Lucas and I go into a large, sparsely furnished room nearby. He has not yet stopped looking at me, not out of laziness or rudeness but purely because he is a man entirely at ease when it comes to staring at people. He’s very good at it.

He says, “Thank you for coming today.”

And I say, “It’s a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me. It’s a great privilege to be here.”

There are two armchairs in the room, upholstered in the same burgundy leather as the sofas downstairs. A large bay window looks out over the tree-lined Mall, feeding weak, broken sunlight into the room. Lucas has a broad oak desk covered in neat piles of paper and a framed black-and-white photograph of a woman whom I take to be his wife.

“Have a seat.”

I drop down low into the leather, my back to the window. There is a coffee table in front of me, an ashtray, and a closed red file. Lucas occupies the chair opposite mine. As he sits down, he reaches into the pocket of his jacket for a pen, retrieving a blue Mont Blanc. I watch him, freeing the trapped flaps of my jacket and bringing them back across my chest. The little physical tics that precede an interview.

“Milius. It’s an unusual name.”

“Yes.”

“Your father, he was from the Eastern bloc?”

“His father. Not mine. Came over from Lithuania in 1940. My family have lived in Britain ever since.”

Lucas writes something down on a brown clipboard braced between his thighs.

“I see. Why don’t we begin by talking about your present job. The CEBDO. That’s not something I’ve heard much about.”

All job interviews are lies. They begin with the résumé, a sheet of word-processed fictions. About halfway down mine, just below the name and address, Philip Lucas has read the following sentence:

I have been employed as a Marketing Consultant at the Central European Business Development Organization (CEBDO) for the past eleven months.

Elsewhere, lower down, are myriad falsehoods: periods of work experience on national newspapers (“Could you do some photocopying please?”); a season as a waiter at a leading Genevan hotel; eight weeks at a London law firm; the inevitable charity work.

The truth is that CEBDO is run out of a small, cramped garage in a mews off Edgware Road. The kitchen doubles for a toilet; if somebody has a crap, no one can make a cup of tea for ten minutes. There are five of us: Nik (the boss), Henry, Russell, myself, and Anna. It’s very simple. We sit on the phone all day talking to businessmen in central—and now eastern—Europe. I try to persuade them to part with large sums of money, in return for which we promise to place an advertisement for their operation in a publication known as the Central European Business Review. This, I tell my clients, is a quarterly magazine that enjoys a global circulation of four hundred thousand copies, “distributed free around the world.” Working purely on commission I can make anything from two to three hundred pounds a week, sometimes more, peddling this story. Nik, I estimate, makes seven or eight times that amount. His only overheads, apart from telephone calls and electricity, are printing costs. These are paid to his brother-in-law who desktop publishes five hundred copies of the Central European Business Review four times a year. These he posts to a few selected embassies across Europe and to all the clients who have placed advertisements in the magazine. Any spares, he throws in the bin.

On paper, it’s legal.

I look Lucas directly in the eye.

“The CEBDO is a fledgling organization that advises new businesses in central—and now eastern—Europe about the perils and pitfalls of the free market.”

Copyright © 2001 by Charles Cumming. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...
  • Book Jacket: When Breath Becomes Air
    When Breath Becomes Air
    by Paul Kalanithi
    When Breath Becomes Air is the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi, written in the time period between ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

The thing that cowardice fears most is decision

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.