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Charlie M (The Charlie Muffin Series Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 207 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Top customer reviews
The story takes place decades ago, when East Germany was still behind the wall and there were no cell phones. The Cold War was still in full swing and spies were constantly going in and out, luring in defectors, sniffing out moles...
British agent Charlie Muffin has worked for the shop for a quarter of a century. Recruited from the working class, he's learned his trade and flourished.
But now his superior has retired and a new day dawns. The men now leading England's spy agency know nothing of the nuts and bolts of the business. They sit in offices and read reports and draw wrong conclusions. Charlie fears for his job. And for the country.
The story opens with Charlie set up to be killed as he attempts to shepherd an East German across the border. He survives, much to the discomfort ot the new agents working with him who honestly believe they're capable and Charlie is too old for the job. They're wrong on both counts.
We watch Charlie visiting a Russian spy he caught. Charlie is a likeable fellow and there is an easy cameraderie between the two that lets us know they're almost friends. Then the game unfolds as a high-level Russian general sends out feelers. He wants to defect. Charlie warns the Russians may be trying to trap someone they can exchange for their spy, but his superiors won't listen.
The Americans horn in. The general has access to information they'd kill for. The British try to use them and blithely set about extracting the general, forced to use Charlie as their other agents fail.
Charlie keeps warning them, but they won't listen. Then, at the end, we learn...
But that would be spoiling it. And the denouement is well worth waiting for.
If you like John LeCarre, you'll like this. The writing isn't nearly as polished, but the story is great.
Charlie Muffin is not prepossessing. He wears baggy suits and dries his socks on the radiator (in fact, he has been walking in order to spend the carfare on wine). Snare and Harrison, his snobbish younger colleagues, despise him. He doesn't have to worry, much, because he knows more than they'll ever learn. Besides which, the ladies love him:
"... Janet sat easily in the chair before her godfather, quite unembarrassed at his discovery of her affair with Charlie.
‘But why, for God’s sake?’ pleaded the soldier. ‘You can have absolutely nothing in common.’
Janet smiled, enjoying herself. ‘At first,’ she explained, ‘he intrigued me … he was so different from any man I’d encountered before … more masculine, I suppose …’ She paused, preparing her shock. ‘… and actually,’ she went on, alert for the old man’s reactions, ‘he’s really quite remarkable in bed.’
Cuthbertson’s face went redder than normal and he gazed down at his desk to avoid her look."
That his wife and his mistress are both irresistibly in love with him is ultimately harder to believe than his ability to manipulate both the CIA and the KGB.
While there was a lot to like about this spy novel, and the spy at the heart of it, hard-boiled anti-snob Charlie Muffin, some of the style, and an extremely unsatisfying plot twist (well built up nonetheless) kept me from really liking it. Abrupt shifts in point-of-view. and a tendency to replace the verb 'said' with very awkward substitutes:
‘Right,’ he accepted.
‘There really shouldn’t be any trouble,’ tried Charlie.
‘Let’s get going,’ he avoided.
(I would have let some of this pseudo-sophistication pass, but the examples seemed to pile on, and by the end of the book I was gritting my teeth)
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