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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of the career spy
Kit Fournier is a senior spy in 1950s London whose mission is to further American interests by wrecking Britain's relations with Russia, preventing her acquiring the H-Bomb, and thereby making her a more willing vassal of the USA. Although Fournier's nominal enemy is the Soviet Union, then, the majority of his double- and triple-crossing is directed at his own colleagues...
Published on 1 Mar 2012 by schlockhorror

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fiction stranger than fact
Like the other three-star reviewer here, I gave up in disappointment. In The Midnight Swimmer, Edward Wilson pulled off the weaving of real life characters into a fictional tale with bravura. The presence in The Envoy of Anthony Eden, Intelligence chief Dick White, Allen Dulles, Commander Crabbe and others might just have worked had it not been for the many diversions...
Published on 5 Oct 2012 by G. M. Sinstadt


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of the career spy, 1 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Envoy, The (Paperback)
Kit Fournier is a senior spy in 1950s London whose mission is to further American interests by wrecking Britain's relations with Russia, preventing her acquiring the H-Bomb, and thereby making her a more willing vassal of the USA. Although Fournier's nominal enemy is the Soviet Union, then, the majority of his double- and triple-crossing is directed at his own colleagues and allies. In the course of the book he blackmails one colleague, violently assaults a friendly agent to teach him a lesson, fraternises with the KGB and gratifies a sexual obsession with his cousin in the course of recruiting her to spy on her husband.

This book does an excellent, highly plausible job of evoking the bleak landscape of the career spy, and the landscape in question isn't just the physical landscape, but the mental and moral landscape as well.

To say these are awry in Fournier is to put the matter very mildly. One should thoroughly dislike him, but the book's achievement is to use his surroundings to explain his state of mind without labouring the point too hard. And as a result, you don't.

So Fournier's choice of home is a dive in the East End rather than the pleasant pad he could otherwise expect. Almost all houses are cold and unwelcoming. Trysts with his cousin occur in a grotty dilapidated boathouse. The main action and the defections occur in a coastal landscape that feels like the edge of somewhere. His lovers always betray him; the least trustworthy people in his life are his bosses and even his family; the most empathetic character is his KGB counterpart.

In effect, it comes down to whether Fournier's world is as it is because of his actions, or whether the bleakness of his world made him. The view through his own eyes is an unreliable one, and there is a strong sense that he is undone by the world he lives in. As an aside, the atmosphere of Cold War England is skilfully executed and the coda leaves you wondering what to believe. You just have to buy the next book...
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very fine spy story set in the 1950s, 1 Dec 2008
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This review is from: The Envoy (Paperback)
This is one of the best spy stories I have read in years. Set in the mid-1950s when the Cold War as at its height and Britain was humiliated over Suez, the book charts the cynical way in which - so the plot has it - the US sought to undermine Britain's attempt to pursue its goals of independent foreign policy, so as to make it possible for the US to station nuclear weapons on UK soil. Even if you think that the Soviet threat to the West was as serious as some Cold War hawks said it was - and I actually side with the hawks - Wilson's plot has lots of convincing detail.

As a person born near the Suffolk coast who was raised there and learned to sail boats in places such as the Orwell estuary, Woodbridge, Aldeburgh and further south, I loved the local details that were woven in to the plot. You can almost smell the mudflats.

I get the impression that the author is a man of fairly strong left/liberal views but he refrains, mostly, from ramming these down the reader's throat and he never quite falls into the trap of making out that somehow the NATO allies were "just as bad" as the former Soviet Empire. Only once or twice did I find the political tone of this book a bit grating. After all, when all is said and done, what Ronald Reagan called the "Evil Empire", with the Gulag, was indeed evil. But there can also be no doubting that the spying activities on all sides in that era were dirty; Britain was not above dropping its NATO allies into trouble, and vice-versa. I thought Wilson's portrayal of J.F Dulles was particularly chilling.

If you like Le Carre or Len Deighton, you will like this book a lot.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fiction stranger than fact, 5 Oct 2012
By 
G. M. Sinstadt - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Envoy, The (Paperback)
Like the other three-star reviewer here, I gave up in disappointment. In The Midnight Swimmer, Edward Wilson pulled off the weaving of real life characters into a fictional tale with bravura. The presence in The Envoy of Anthony Eden, Intelligence chief Dick White, Allen Dulles, Commander Crabbe and others might just have worked had it not been for the many diversions into actual events of the period that were presumably there to strengthen the verisimilitude but become merely irritating.

At least one can believe in Anthony Eden, which is more than can be said for most of the fictional characters. Kit, the US's top intelligence man in London, crying himself to sleep, wasn't easy to swallow.

This is a difficult genre that Wilson has virtually created for himself, and the stars on this occasion are more for a brave effort than for the actual achievement.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired disillusion, 4 May 2008
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This review is from: The Envoy (Paperback)
I met Edward Wilson at his book signing in Aldeburgh. I knew nothing of his work, but his hint that he'd written a post Le Carre spy novel persuaded me to buy his book, and I'm so glad that I did. His account of the US's attempts to demolish Britain's fantasies of still having an empire, preventing the development of a British H-bomb but needing the territory as a base for nuclear assault or retaliation on Russia is as devastating as it is plausible. Dirty tricks abound and the protagonist (not exactly a hero!) Kit Fournier is no stranger to them. The story mainly moves between London and Suffolk (where Kit's glamorous, if kinky, cousin lives with her husband, a research scientist in Orford Ness) and both settings are admirably realised. I could hardly hope for a happy ending, but - well, I'll say no more except that Wilson transcends Le Carre in his cynicism! Masterly!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping spy story, 2 Jun 2008
This review is from: The Envoy (Paperback)
Edward Wilson's second novel is a gripping spy story set in 1950s Britain, in the genre of Graham Greene and John Le Carre. Like Wilson's first novel, "A River in May", it is extremely well written, and the combination of story line, excellent characterisation, scene-setting and style make it difficult to put down. But whereas "A River in May" recounts the often very disturbing experiences of an American in the Vietnam War, "The Envoy" - though not without a few fairly gruesome scenes - is the generally more entertaining tale of a US diplomat cum secret agent and his encounters with his American bosses, British hosts and Russian counterparts.

Highly recommended - a very good read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allies spying on each other, 18 April 2008
This review is from: The Envoy (Paperback)
Just when you think you have read every type of espionage story, another one comes along that has a different slant to it. I have just finished reading this spy novel so here are my fresh impressions. I read it within a week so it kept my attention. It begins dramatically with a plane crash. I thought, this is going to be good. It seemed very well written. I found it interesting all the way through; exciting in some chapters and slowish in others. It is dark in the same way as the works of Le Carre, in that it shows the spy business to be dirty and cruel. Read it until the end as it's not over, until it's over.
So what's it about. It is mainly set in the early 1950's. The protaganist, Kit Fournier, is appointed CIA chief of station, in London. His main task is to spy on the British and help to prevent us getting the Hydrogen bomb. He actually gets on better with his KGB counterpart than he does with Dick White, head of MI5. One of is first missions involves setting up and betraying Commander Crabb to the Russians, although it is not as clear cut as that and does not go to plan. In fact, very little is as it seems. Fournier is an interesting character. Quite prepared to kill, he also comes across as a decent guy. To tell any more I think would give too much away.
The author is a decorated ex-officer of the American Special Forces and served in Vietnam.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intricate and gripping spy story, 16 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Envoy (Kindle Edition)
Kit Fournier, the protagonist of Edward Wilson's excellent espionage novel, is the CIA's 'Head of Station' within the American Embassy in London in the 1950s. Britain is still riven with post-war austerity and is struggling to retain its self-image as an international power. Both America and the USSR have tested nuclear weapons, and Britain wants to join the club. America, however, is less keen on such a step and refuses to share the technology, preferring to use Britain as a fixed aircraft carrier for its own nuclear deterrent.

Fournier is essentially patriotic, fervently supporting America's interests though occasionally his conscience pains him. As the novel develops he launches his own operations to confound the Soviets, but also to try to distance his British counterparts.

Wilson expertly weaves historical figures into his novel, which is as intricate and elaborate as le Carre at his best. There are cameo appearances from John Profumo, John F Kennedy and Sir Dick White (at different times head of both MI5 and MI6). Real events are woven into the story, too, including the visit to Portsmouth of the Soviet destroyer Ordzhonikidze and the ill-fated expedition by veteran diver Buster Crabb to explore its hull looking for evidence of any super new technology.

The use of real characters and events helps to give a deep verisimilitude, and the plot is developed with great care. All told, a very successful and gripping novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go Back to the 1950s - reminisce politically, 6 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Envoy, The (Paperback)
I recall the 1950s very well. I was at college and Mr. Wilson picks up the political, diplomatic and historical and newsworthy situation of that period.
I could not put it down (much to the family wanting their supper!) but would say that it explains a lot and suggests a lot of the inter-spying between East and West very well. I will not reveal the story but do recommend it even for essay writing at College!.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars complex, multi-layered, atmospheric, full of historical and political insight, 14 July 2012
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Envoy, The (Paperback)
The Envoy is a superior spy story that blends real world events and people with a fictional tale. It is complex, multi-layered, atmospheric, full of historical and political insight, and reveals deep insight into human relations. Wilson constructs a compelling and plausible plot that cleverly uses real events, such as the Ordzhonikidze incident in Portsmouth harbour, Britain's hydrogen bomb program, and the Suez crisis, and real personalities such as Allen Dulles, Jack Kennedy and Dick White. He recreates the social landscape of Britain and the wider political atmosphere and diplomatic games being played in the 1950s, providing a deep sense of historical realism (indeed, the bibliography at the end of the book shows that Wilson did a fair bit of research in plotting the book). In particular, Wilson captures the spy's world of deception, lies, betrayals, coercion, blackmail, state-sanctioned murder, paranoia, danger and constant worry, and that half the battle is the games within and between one's own organisations. His characterization is excellent, especially his portrayal of Kit Fournier as a self-reflexive spy racked with self-loathing, yet compelled out of duty and honour to play his role, and he does a good job at exploring the human condition and what drives and shapes people in particular circumstances. Overall, a very well told story, with a couple of nice twists and turns, and an excellent resolution that proves that nothing is as it seems, even to those that think they can see the hand that each party is holding.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spies rarely die in bed., 30 May 2012
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Envoy, The (Paperback)
What happens when a spy's career goes terribly wrong? Death, random or otherwise, betrayal of country and values and family? And to who or what do a spy's loyalty belong in the first place? Edward Wilson, in his novel, "The Envoy", answers these questions - and more - in a very stylish novel.

Set in London in the mid-1950's, Kit Fournier is a veteran of WW2, from a fairly well-known and well-regarded family, whose members are active in military, science, and diplomatic circles. Kit is the CIA station-chief at the US Embassy in London, though his job his hidden behind a mid-ranking diplomatic title. And as station-chief, he knows and interacts - both covertly and on-the-level - with his counter-parts at the Soviet Embassy and with England's MI5 and MI6. "Interacts" is a nice term for, um, oh, "spy craft". Kit, who lives a life spent by choice in the shadows, regularly trades secrets of his own staff, setting up betrayals for both money and sex, the latter referred to as a "honey-trap". But Kit, that master, consummate spy-master, gets caught up in his own "honey-trap", and the results are shattering to many on all levels of the spying ladder.

The year 1956 was a fairly important one in post-WW2 history. The Tory government of Anthony Eden was dealing with both the Soviets and the Arabs. Control over the Suez Canal was at stake, as well as British development of an H-Bomb. The Dulles brothers, with John Foster as Secretary of State and Allen as CIA chief, served the Eisenhower administration and both were familiar with foreign affairs, particularly those taking place in London. In a world where everyone was bugging everyone else, no embassy in London was considered "safe territory". Kit Fournier knew his own office at the embassy in Grosevenor Square wasn't bugged, but only because he swept it for bugs on a weekly basis.

Edward Wilson writes a clever book about a man caught in the tides of history, and who faces a life of betrayal and death, meted out by the various sides in an on-going war that had no firm sides and no firm loyalties among it's players. This is a good novel, which leaves the reader thinking - and wondering - about "sides" and "loyalty" and, of course, "betrayal".
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