BookBrowse Reviews A Spy by Nature by Charles Cumming

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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

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Tautly written, cleverly plotted, and with a real sense of moral anger at the cruelties and duplicities of modern espionage

A Spy By Nature, Charles Cumming's first novel, has drawn comparisons to Len Deighton and the early works of John le Carré. If we must make comparison to Le Carré, and when reviewing spy novels it seems de rigueur to do so, it would not be to the early Smiley novels but to Le Carré's more recent works such as Absolute Friends, set in the post Cold-War period when the lines between state-sponsored and private sector intelligence have blurred.

We first meet Alec Milius in a dead-end job selling advertising space in the Central European Business Review, a publication of dubious reputation*. Through a chance contact he is invited to apply to the Secret Intelligent Service (SIS). Having gone through the rigorous selection process he is placed in a covert position as a support agent inside a ...

Interesting to note: The inevitable question asked of most first novels is how much of it is autobiographical? It is clear that Milius's recruitment experience is based on Cumming's own, but what about his character? This reviewer would hazard a guess that Cumming and Milius have little in common on the basis of one small but interesting detail - Charles Cumming's website is the only one I can recollect visiting where less than positive book reviews share equal space with the glowing ones, which would appear to indicate a certain openness on the author's part - not a character trait shared by Alec Milius!

*The fictitious Central European Business Review claims to publish extensively across Europe but actually publishes only a handful of copies which are sent to advertisers and a few other key ...

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