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The Poison Tide [Kindle Edition]

Andrew Williams
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1915. German guns are on their way to Ireland. The British government faces its worst nightmare; insurrection at home while it struggles with bloody stalemate on the Western Front. A British spy, Sebastian Wolff of the new Secret Service Bureau, is given the task of hunting down its enemies: one a traitor reviled by the society that honoured him as a national hero; the other a German-American doctor who, instead of healing the sick, is developing a terrifying new weapon that he will use in the country of his birth.  Wolff's mission will take him undercover into the corridors of power in Berlin, then across the Atlantic in a race against time to prevent the destruction of the ships and supplies Britain so desperately needs to stave off defeat.

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'Williams is establishing himself as the master of this historical thriller in which real-life events and characters are given a fictional twist or gloss' (Scotsman)

'A first-class thriller . . . possesses a richness of characterisation and intelligence that few other such thrillers can match' (Sunday Times)

'A cracking read, a thriller that has heft . . . powerful and forthright' (History Today)

'This is a very satisfying thriller on many levels. Above all, it's an intelligent thriller: brilliantly researched, superbly crafted and . . . well written' (

'Two novels have established Andrew Williams as an outstanding writer of the historical thriller or spy story. The Poison Tide will only enhance his reputation. It is very good indeed . . . Compelling and smoothly engineered . . . You will be lucky if you come upon a more engrossing and enjoyable historical thriller this year. Or perhaps next year' (Allan Massie, Scotsman)

'Williams' knowledge of the time, combined with a talent for storytelling, means his historical thrillers are compelling and extremely enjoyable. Williams skilfully creates a character that is honest, ruthless and flawed . . . The Poison Tide is a thoroughly enjoyable read' (

'I really enjoyed this very exciting but fast-paced thriller, with intricately researched details . . . I was gripped until the final page. Well recommended' (

'This fine novel fuses fiction with real-life First World War events . . . It's multi-layered and gripping' (Peterborough Telegraph)

Praise for Andrew Williams:

'Williams contrives an appealing blend of Doctor Zhivago, Conrad's Under Western Eyes and Boris Akunin's 19th-century crime fiction. His ability to bring a past world to life matches Furst's'

(John Dugdale, Sunday Times)

'This is a dense, meaty affair which pulls off the trick of gripping the reader and bringing a complicated, alien world to life' (Guardian)

'He blends historical fact and fiction in a vivid recreation of the world of The Idiot and Crime and Punishment' (The Times)

'Elegantly serpentine plotting and finely etched characters confirm his place in the front rank of the new English thriller writers' (Daily Mail)

'A very accomplished novel which can be enjoyed as a gripping and moving thriller. Yet it is more than that, for it invites us to reflect on questions of morality, and on that age-old question of when, if ever, violent means may be held to justify worthy ends; whether, indeed, such ends can ever be achieved if the means are inescapably criminal' (Allan Massie, Scotsman)

'Andrew Williams takes us very convincingly into the world of idealistic terrorists . . . The atmosphere of time and place is finely realised and the plot is compelling. Best of all, however, is the moral discrimination with which Williams presents his terrorists to us, showing how high ideals may be corrupted by whatever is perceived to be necessary' (Scotsman)

'Exciting . . . an important book for devotees of the spy story' (Shots Magazine)

'A gripping thriller set in a world of treachery' (British Fantasy Society)

Book Description

A tense story of a spy undercover during the First World War, Andrew Williams recreates the early years of the Secret Service as evocatively as anything by John le Carré or Robert Harris. The Poison Tide 'possesses a richness of characterisation and intelligence that few thrillers can match...' Sunday Times

Product details

More About the Author

Andrew worked as a newspaper journalist, then as a senior producer on BBC Television's flagship current affairs programmes, Panorama and Newsnight, covering the major stories of the day. In 1997 he moved to BBC Documentaries and spent the next eleven years writing and directing television documentaries and drama documentaries for the BBC and international co-producers, including the award winning series, 'The Battle of the Atlantic'. He has written two best selling histories of the Second World War; 'The Battle of the Atlantic', and 'D-Day to Berlin'. His first novel, 'The Interrogator', was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Thriller of the Year Award and the Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award, and it was The Daily Mail's debut thriller of 2009. His second, 'To Kill A Tsar', was one of The Daily Mail's thrillers of 2010 and was shortlisted for The Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the Ellis Peters Award. 'The Poison Tide' was the first in a trilogy of Secret Service novels that take place during World War 1. The second, 'The Suicide Club', is a spy story set at British HQ in France and behind enemy lines in Belgium. The Daily Mail has described him as belonging to 'the front rank of the new English thriller writers'. For background to his books and more on the author, visit: You can follow and discuss the books with Andrew on Facebook

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Undercover in Foreign Fields 5 Aug. 2012
Spy thrillers set during World War I are not that common but spy thrillers, wherever set, as intelligent and well-written as The Posion Tide are positively rare.
Andrew Williams has shown in previous novels The InterrogatorTo Kill a Tsar that he is good at handling big historical themes as well as small historical detail and The Poison Tide is his most ambitious book to date. As the Great War rages in the mud and blood of the trenches on the Western Front,
another, quieter but just as deadly, war runs in parallel between the newly-formed intelligence networks of Britain and Germany. On the British side, officer and gentleman Sebastian Wolff is recruited by spymaster "C" (the forerunner of James Bond's "M")and whilst he shows a natural talent for the dirty side of the spy trade, he is always conscious that what he is doing out of loyalty for his country is eroding every decent thing he was brought up to believe in.
His initial objective is to travel undercover to Berlin and spy on Sir Roger Casement, the Irish Nationalist co-operating with the Germans in order to throw the British out of Ireland. When his mission takes him on to neutral America to infiltrate the pro-Irish independence movement there, Wolff stumbles on an operation run by German Intelligence which is far more terrifying than the prospect of an uprising in Ireland (which happened in 1916). In fact, it is nothing less than the development of the first true Weapon of Mass Destruction.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sir Read-A-Lot's Review 17 Aug. 2012
Lieutenant Sebastian Wolff returns for another adventure in Andrew Williams' latest novel, released yesterday.
It is 1915 and Europe is at war. The latest assignment for Wolff is to discover the plans of a known Irish rebel who is using the pre-occupation of Britain's war with Germany to organise a rebellion that will free Ireland from the yoke of English rule. However, a conspiracy to sink British ships carrying vital supplies across the Atlantic is uncovered. The trail takes Wolff from Berlin to America, where an even more sinister plot to develop a poisonous gas to be used against the British is uncovered.

Williams has created a series of novels, this being the third, which could be described as a "niche" product. Set in the era of the First World War, Williams knowledge of the time, combined with a talent for story-telling, means his historical thrillers are compelling and extremely enjoyable. Williams skilfully creates a character that is honest, ruthless and flawed. You get under his skin and feel his dilemmas, his amoral behaviour with women and the steely determination with which he ensures each mission is successful. The modern era of spycraft is being born and developed by the newly created Secret service Bureau; dead-drops and sewing tissue paper filled with sensitive information inside linings of coats are some of the imaginative ways Wolff smuggles his findings back to his superiors.

The Poison Tide is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The technical and historical detail is unencumbered, allowing the reader to follow the plot without distraction. I have always enjoyed spy novels and there are times when the antics of the hero are implausible, but this is not the case with "The Poison Tide". Williams has created a character that will appeal to a predominantly male audience, but I am sure women will see him as a early 20th century Jack Reacher and enjoy these novels too.

Sir Read-A-Lot gives "The Poison Tide" 4 crosses!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret War 11 Aug. 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have been looking forward to Andrew Williams' new novel as I really enjoyed his first two books. I am not disappointed, 'The Poison Tide ' is an exciting, well researched and very well written novel, that illuminates aspects of World War One not normally covered in books on the war. The author skilfully weaves together fact and fiction and there is an Historical Note giving details of the sources at the end of the book - worth reading for an insight into the craft of the author.The novel moves at a lively pace and the sense of atmosphere created in Berlin and New York is excellent.The hero of the novel Sebastian Wolff is a complex character who is confronted by the moral dilemmas of war. He is an interesting hero and I hope he may appear in future novels - the door has been left open. A central figure in the story is Sir Roger Casement and he is depicted as a man of integrity striving to achieve his goals for Ireland but who comes to a tragic end through his weaknesses and abandonment by those who sought to exploit him for their own purposes.There are a number of other interesting characters including Dr Anton Dilger - a doctor who uses his skills to develop biological and chemical weapons, the ' poison tide ' of the title and Laura McDonnell the young Irish campaigner with whom Wolff falls in love.All the characters are believable and well drawn.I recommend 'The Poison Tide' without reservation. Lesley Dunn
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ripping good read 31 Oct. 2012
From the opening chapters in a ruthless 1914 Germany determined to use biological warfare against its unsuspecting enemies, to the denouement of this thriller on the other side of the Atlantic, Poison Tide has the reader well and truly hooked. When it comes to taking historical characters and events and turning them into riveting fiction, Andrew Williams has few equals. First there was First Officer Lieutenant Douglas Lindsay who prises valuable secrets from a German U-boat commander in The Interrogator The Interrogator- with a cameo from Ian Flemming no less - followed by Dr Fredrick Hadfield and some spirited female assassins in To Kill a TsarTo Kill a Tsar. With British spy Sebastian Wolff in Poison Tide, Williams has created his best incarnation yet. While Wolff adopts many guises and personas in his mission to thwart his enemies he never loses the essence of being human. Unlike many action spy heroes who kill and move on, Wolff is troubled by those who die, even those not by his own hand, his prickled conscience a constant source of discomfort.

Nothing and no-one is black and white and this is particularly true when it comes to fighting for a cause, particularly for one's country, a theme that is central to this gripping story. This is particularly true of Sir Roger Casement the Irishman whose passion for Irish Home Rule leads him into an ill-advised deal with the Germans. The ambiguity of Wolff's relationship with Casement, who he ends up admiring despite Casement having been declared a traitor, also reinforces Wolff's human side and gives the story another unexpected dimension.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work
Well in the space of a week I have read all 4 Andrew Williams novels,this being the 3rd, it suffers by comparison to"kill a Tsar" and unfortunately does not have the same gripping... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr. B. Carter
3.0 out of 5 stars a 200 page story crammed into 450...
The story line was OK. Being a fan of thrillers, espionage and WWII, I thought this would be right up my alley. Read more
Published on 20 May 2013 by John Covington
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read!
This brilliantly told spy thriller is a great read and tells a fantastic story of intrigue during the first world war. Read more
Published on 9 April 2013 by arlington
1.0 out of 5 stars hard going
I am always keen to read spy stories, but this one didn't do it for me... Hard work keeping up with the plot and I kept feeling the real twists and turns were just out of my reach. Read more
Published on 7 Jan. 2013 by B van den Berg
2.0 out of 5 stars 'The Poison Tide'
This looked interesting on-screen. I have a liking for the period (just post-Great War), but the writing was very laboured; nothing 'lit up' for me.
Published on 31 Dec. 2012 by jack adrian
5.0 out of 5 stars an exciting and gripping read
My husband is a very selective reader - he enjoys writers like Alan Furst. I bought this book in desperation as he has exhausted all our reading material. Read more
Published on 28 Dec. 2012 by Luanshya Carol
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling tale of espionage
For his third novel Andrew Williams turns successfully to the First World War. He leaves the horror of the trenches and the Battle of the Somme as ever-present background, whilst... Read more
Published on 25 Aug. 2012 by Mr. Neville W. McFarlane
5.0 out of 5 stars exciting and well-researched
The Poison Tide is an excellent novel, well-researched, exciting and tense - a classic espionage thriller but with an unusual subject matter: the contest to win the hearts and... Read more
Published on 9 Aug. 2012 by Maria Williams
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