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Artis-Ann
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1:00 AM 13th April 2024
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Spying Is Lying: The Traitor By Ava Glass

 
It makes a change to enter the world of spies and spying; fast action, drama and tension with a good old fashioned Russian enemy who needs to be stopped when all efforts to thwart him are, in turn, thwarted by a traitor, at the very heart of British Intelligence. Reading The Traitor is a brilliant way to lose yourself for a few hours at a time and to abandon the dull boredom of everyday suburban life.

From page one, the reader is pitched into a world unknown to most of us, think of a combination of Bond and Spooks. A dead body is found in a suitcase. Stephen Garrick, a brilliant data analyst, working for the intelligence services, has been killed by some kind of nerve agent, his tortuous end written all over his face. Emma Makepeace is a twenty-eight-year old, ‘bright young thing’, of Russian origin, who is assigned to uncover the identity of whoever is responsible for what is obviously an assassination. As we meet the shadowy figures who walk the corridors of power, ie. not the elected faces we all recognize from the television, the reader is enthralled from the start by a story which is fantastical, but these days, not incredible. A world of make-believe is made real.

Reading The Traitor is a brilliant way to lose yourself for a few hours at a time and to abandon the dull boredom of everyday suburban life.
Emma quickly discovers Garrick had been about to expose two Russian oligarchs, working for themselves, not the Russian government, it seems. There are vast sums of money involved and the suspected sale of chemical weapons which, in the wrong hands, ‘could kill thousands’. As you would expect when dealing with such anti-heroes, there are super yachts, a lot of vodka, and the need for disguise. Emma Makepeace is chosen to covertly enter this villainous world and find out all she can about Volkov, Federov and a mysterious third man. So, Jessica Marshall is born and while the danger is understated, it is definitely present as she joins the crew of the Eden, a floating palace but also potentially ‘a prison with the sea for walls’. She has to take risks if she is to achieve her objective and as with most narratives of this sort, both on screen and on the page, the tension, at times, is palpable as she races to search for information, knowing that at any time she could be found out. The scene shifts from London to the French Riviera, then Barcelona and back to France before returning to London but to be honest, the locations are secondary and simply provide an international backdrop to the plot.

At first, it seems Emma, as Jessica, gets lucky and is able to relay relevant, important information back to her masters, but as the pages turn, it seems her luck runs out. Volkov and more crucially, his henchman, Cal Grogan, are on to her. She manages to slip their grasp but is found again too quickly for there not to be someone feeding them information. Time and again, she has to use her wits and her training to stay alive. The suspect has to be part of the inner circle of the agency with top level security clearance; she has her suspicions - and a scar from a previous outing to back them up - but her boss won’t hear of it. The truth will come out, but will it be in time?

It was good to have a female protagonist in a role such as this but she is supported by a male-dominated crew, led by a man, so a nod to, rather than an all-out blow for, feminism;...
Volkov and Federov are stereotypical Russian villains – not that I’ve ever met one, you understand - but they would fit seamlessly into any similar plot. Madison and Natalya, are as naive and vulnerable as you would expect the young girlfriend of any extremely wealthy, generous and demanding super-villain to be. Grogan, is almost a caricature of the henchman who has ‘the training and bulk’ to withstand a battering which would send any other mere mortal into the ether of eternity. Emma Makepeace, our heroine, is inconspicuous enough to blend into the background but trained well enough to pounce like a cat when necessary; she is wholly believable as is the cast which surrounds her: Ripley, Field, Zach, Martha and Jon, which allows this outlandish plot to seem real. There are a few gadgets (we’d be disappointed if there weren’t): microphones, trackers, cameras, hidden apps and even a blade secreted in a lipstick, but there are not so many that we think Jonny English rather than the more recent outings of Mr ‘Shaken not Stirred’ himself. The dialogue is natural and never seems to be forced, adding to the authenticity of the tale.

It was good to have a female protagonist in a role such as this but she is supported by a male-dominated crew, led by a man, so a nod to, rather than an all-out blow for, feminism; I didn’t feel this was ever intended to be a political statement. It was just a good yarn, with a decent pace and some thrills and excitement along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed the escapism – it made an excellent change.


The Traitor is published by Penguin Books