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Secret Service

Secret Service

Tom Bradby
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
A good old-fashioned cold war spy story, well written and with enough twists and turns to keep the reader enthralled. The story opens with the main character, Kate – a senior Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) officer in charge of the Russia Desk – receiving a tip-off from an old contact who has not been heard from for years. The tip-off is that important Russians are meeting on a Russian oligarch’s super yacht in Greece. Kate recruits, well sort of blackmails, a young girl to go on the yacht as a nanny to place a bug. This leads to information that shocks Kate and her superiors. As ever, office politics come in to play as her counter part is angling for the Director’s post and will do anything to downplay Kate’s information. Several sub-plots involving a rocky marriage due to work pressures, colleagues checking on colleagues, all of which keep the story running along very nicely.

Anyway, the tip-off is that the UK Prime Minister has been diagnosed with cancer and is about to stand down, a fact not known outside of No10 apparently. On top of this it is disclosed that the information comes from “Viper” so a mole is sitting at the top levels of British government. All this is enough to upset the cart but a final bit of information is that one of the candidates for the PM’s job is in fact a Russian agent! Now that really sets the dogs running and the book really takes off, added to which is Kate’s bosses asking whether the Russian information is just fake news trying to derail SIS? A possibility that must be checked.

There are two main candidates for the PM’s job: one went to school and was very close to the current Director of MI6 and the other is a friend of Kate’s and employs Kate’s husband as one of her senior staffers.

So, there we have the plot: One Russian agent as potential PM, one SIS senior officer as a mole called “Viper”, investigations within SIS on fellow officers and the knowledge that the Russians knew about the PMs condition before anyone in the UK establishment! Kate is given the task of finding the mole and in the process uncovering which of the two strong candidates for new PM is a Russian agent – simple! On top of all this Kate has to balance the needs of her family with her husband a busy staffer with a Cabinet Minister and two teenage rebels.

PM stands down and the two main contenders start their campaign which puts Kate under sever pressure to discover who the Russian agent is and more importantly who the mole in SIS is. Kate’s husband becomes involved with his Minister’s bid for PM and therefore not available for looking after the kids while Kate is becoming more and more busy trying to track down her suspects. On top of this is Kate’s mother who is in a home but demanding visits from her daughter, who she constantly denigrates. All in all a very stressful time for Kate. Coupled with this is information that the Cabinet Minister that Kate’s husband works for is not averse to taking her juniors to bed on trips abroad, leaving Kate wondering if her husband has. Tension at home mounts.

The identity of “Viper” starts to become clear and actions are started to uncover him/her and Kate realises that this is at the stage where she may not survive any meeting. The book ends with a letter to Kate asking her to meet her old Moscow contact, but Kate realises that this is where she will meet up with “Viper” and put the whole affair to bed. The ending is a bit confusing which leads me to thinking that this may just be the lead in to the next book, I hope so.

A well written story and coming out now with the chance of a Russian agent getting in to No 10 may just count it as ‘contemporary’! I really can’t go in much more as that would give away the plot and ending but this is a good story which may have you thinking about how we, as a country, put top people in their posts.

The author Tom Bradby is a News presenter for ITV and political journalist for many years. He has written several other books and while I have not read them I will be looking for them to see if they are as readable as this one is.

4/5 Mr MRHs

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