This Boston Book Bum is not a usual reader of spy thrillers, but after listening to the charming Charles Cumming speak about his latest novel, The Trinity Six back in October, we had to give this book and this genre a shot. We are so pleased we did.
Charles Cumming may have added a bit of authenticity to the British spy novel, after all, he was once recruited by MI6. Cumming takes a true life spy story, the Cambridge Five and adds a twist. The Cambridge Five was a group of five Cambridge College students who became communist during their time at school and were recruited by the Soviet Union to pass British secrets during World War II. All this is true, as well as the persistent rumor that a sixth spy was part of the ring but never revealed. Cumming wisely uses this rumor as the foundation for his novel, The Trinity Six by introducing us to the possibility that a sixth spy existed, even though quite old, may still be alive and well in Great Britain.
Enter Sam Gaddis, a unlikely, unsuspecting academic who finds himself investigated just such a rumor. Gaddis is in some recent financial troubles, nothing scandalous, just recovering from an expensive divorce and meeting the education needs of his daughter. There is your incentive. Gaddis is a professor of Russian History and has published a several small books on the subject so when he approaches his publisher for an advance, the publisher advices that he find a blockbuster of a story. Lucky for Sam, his best friend is a journalist who may have a blockbuster story she is willing to share. Sam’s luck changes when his best friend, hard drinking, hard smoking middle-aged Charlotte dies of a heart attack.
Cumming manages to navigate the two major pitfalls of most spy thrillers with ease. First of all, even though there is ubiquitous “meet beautiful woman 15 years younger and bed her the next day” scene, mostly Cumming steers clear of the damsel in distress theme, and in fact Sam Gaddis is pulled from many a rough spot with the help of some crafty women.
The other pitfall that is generally completely ignored in the thriller genre is why does a seemingly normal guy, with no specific training get involved in such a deadly game of spies. Cumming addresses this head on with Gaddis weighing his options and trying to figure out how to get untangled and why he chooses not to.
Maybe its Cumming’s own peek into MI6, or the likable, fairly realistic Sam Gaddis or perhaps the provenance of British spies, but The Trinity Six works and is enjoyable from beginning to end. Of course, one can’t help wonder if now that Sam Gaddis has a taste of the spy world, will he be back for more?
The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming was received for free by Boston Book Bums