THE TRINITY SIX by Charles Cumming

Book Quote:

“They say that everybody has their reasons, but it’s a mystery to me why you would destroy lives as freely as you do. There are so many other choices available to you. Is it just the thrill of it, the sense of power? Or are you so loyal to your country, are you such a patriot, that it short-circuits your [sense of] decency?”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  (MAR 15, 2011)

Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and John Cairncross, who studied at Cambridge in the 1930s, were recruited by Moscow Center to act as Soviet agents. They eventually rose to positions of prominence in such organizations as the British Foreign Office and the Secret Intelligence Service (M16). Over the years, they passed “vast numbers of classified documents to their handlers.” Charles Cumming, in The Trinity Six, suggests the existence of a sixth man whose identity was never made public. What if this individual survived decades after the other five passed away and decided that the time has come to reveal what he knows?

Forty-three year old Dr. Sam Gaddis is a British scholar, author, and senior lecturer in Russian history at University College in London. As the story opens, Gaddis is interviewing a smarmy male nurse named Calvin Somers. Sam agrees to pay Somers three thousand pounds for potentially explosive information about a former patient named Edward Crane, who was admitted to St. Mary’s Paddington Hospital in 1992. Crane purportedly died of pancreatic cancer, but the situation, it turns out, was not as straightforward as it appeared. It seems that certain governmental officials perpetrated an elaborate ruse that would have major consequences for years to come.

Gaddis, who is already deeply in debt, learns that he owes over twenty-thousand pounds in back taxes. In addition, his ex-wife, Natasha, is demanding increased child support for their daughter. He decides to pitch an idea for a new book that, he hopes, will earn him a sizeable advance. The manuscript would need to have commercial possibilities, or as his literary agent says, “I’m talking cover of the Daily Mail. I’m talking scoop.” As luck would have it, Sam’s close friend, journalist Charlotte Berg, drops a bombshell after a night of heavy drinking: “What if I told you there was a sixth Cambridge spy who had never been unmasked?” She goes on: “I’m talking about a legendary KGB spy…every bit as dangerous and as influential as Maclean and Philby.” Sam is eager to follow up, especially since an attractive woman named Holly Levette is offering Sam the papers of her late mother, who was working on a history of the KGB before she died. Perhaps he can find enough material from his various sources to earn the cash that he so desperately needs. His inquiries lead him to a nonagenarian in a nursing home, a physician in Berlin, a widow in Moscow, and a former British spy in New Zealand. Before this sordid case comes to a close, Sam discovers a secret that, if it became public, could ” ‘rock London and Moscow to their foundations.’ ”

The Trinity Six is multifaceted tale of deception, greed, and betrayal. Realpolitik—the theory that leaders focus more on considerations of power than they do on ideals, morals, or principles—is at the heart of the novel. Gaddis watches in horror as, one by one, anyone who knows too much is eliminated; he wonders if learning the truth is worth sacrificing his life. Yet, he finds it difficult to let go. This investigation has become personal, and Sam recklessly risks everything to get to the bottom of what turns out to be a shocking cover-up.

Cumming is a talented writer with an impressive knowledge of espionage;  The Trinity Six has the ring of authenticity. What keeps it from being an unqualified success is its tendency to be too talky and didactic. Often the characters make speeches instead of conversing naturally. Sam is likeable enough, but he is a bland and naïve protagonist who stumbles around like a bull in a china shop; the fact that he manages to stay alive is nothing short of miraculous. The author includes the usual espionage trappings, such as electronic eavesdropping, forged passports, and surveillance operations. There is a fair amount of violence which, before long, loses its impact. All in all, this is a serviceable, but not outstanding, work of fiction. It reinforces what most of know already—that governments are too often controlled by self-serving, ruthless, and amoral politicians. It is not a pretty picture.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 26 readers
PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (March 15, 2011)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? YES! Start Reading Now!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Charles Cumming
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

A Spy By Nature

Bibliography:

* Follow on to A Spy By Nature


March 15, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Thriller/Spy/Caper

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