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Friday, January 22, 2010

The Innocent Spy

Wilson, Laura.  The Innocent Spy.

I found this novel interesting  for several reasons:  part of the storyline is based on true events, and one of the characters is based on Charles Maxwell Knight (head of the counter-subversion department of MI5 during WWII and thought to be the model for James Bond's boss, M); other characters are also based on real people.  The novel also presents  a slightly different view of the blitz than I've encountered before, as well as the emotional stress suffered by  parents who sent their children away from London during the nightly bombings.

Detective Ted Stratton becomes involved with the murder of a silent film star that has officially been designated suicide or accident.  His investigation eventually brings him into contact with Diana Colthorp who is participating in a covert operation for MI5.

While parts of the novel are a bit slow, the storyline concerning MI5 and espionage is informative.  Detective  Stratton is likable and believable, concerned about things being swept under the rug for "security" reasons, aware of how the game is played, but not necessarily happy about it.  Diana Colthorpe, realizing that she has made a mistake in her marriage, takes the job in MI5 to escape an oppressive mother-in-law after her husband's enlistment.  She finds her new independence and job exciting, but eventually realizes that the complex layers involved are darker than she imagined.

Originally published as Stratton's War.

Fiction.  Historical Mystery.  2008.  447 pages.


  1. I have the UK edition of this (it's too confusing when they change titles here in the US). I'm glad to read your post as the Amazon reviews were disappointing. I think this sounds pretty good and have it in my pile to read. I've heard it's quite atmospheric, too.

  2. This is the third post in two days that I've seen this book mentioned. I must read it. I loved the TV series with Michael Kitchen as Stratton, so atmospheric.

  3. Danielle - I find it confusing and a bit annoying when the titles are changed. The book isn't as fast-paced as some, but I liked the MI5 connection because some of the characters and events were based on real life.

    BooksPlease - Oh, I didn't know there was a TV series! Maybe I can get it on Netflix. Thanks!

  4. I just yesterday read this title:

    I think I'll get it soon. Am I confused? Is there a tv series of Stratton as well as Foyle?? Anyhow, thanks for the review.

  5. Nan - I've seen and enjoyed some of Foyle's War on PBS. I couldn't find anything when I Googled "Stratton's War and BBC series" -- so I'm confused, too.

  6. Hey Jenclair, I just ordered Stratton's War from Book Depository. I think Margaret must have meant Foyle's War since it is a similar premise.

  7. Nan - I'll bet that's it. I think I'll try Foyle's War on Netflix; that way I can see the entire series in order instead of catching the occasional episode on PBS.