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by William Boyd

Oxford,1976. Ruth is perplexed and irritated by her mother’s strange behaviour: she says someone is out to kill her and gives Ruth a written account of her life between 1939-41 to read in instalments. During that parched summer, Ruth discovers that her mother is not Sally Gilmartin, nee Fairchild, as she had always believed, but Eva Delectorskaya, half English, half Russian emigre and agent for the British Intelligence Services.
Eva is recruited in Paris at the outbreak of the war, trained to be the perfect spy in Scotland and finds herself in the United States trying to persuade the Americans that it was in their interest to join the war in Europe. Her story is based on the true history of BSC – British Security Coordination – a huge covert operation that consisted of hundreds of agents manipulating the media in the US. Their job was to plant bogus stories in newspapers and radio broadcasts that would change public opinion, at that time heavily against getting involved in Europe’s war. Eva is sent on one final and fatally dangerous mission and realises the bitter truth of her mentor’s advice that she must trust no one.
Thus William Boyd cleverly interweaves the Oxford of the mid-70’s – a time of cheesecloth, clogs and demos against a library built with the Shah of Iran’s money – with the extraordinary story of a spy during World War II and leaves us with a sense of the clandestine, arbitrary and unknowable nature of international politics. He is a brilliant storyteller and in this one he creates a fantastic web of intrigue, passion and betrayal.


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