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The Whitehall Mandarin Paperback – 15 May 2014

3.7 out of 5 stars 99 customer reviews

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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Arcadia Books; EXPORT TRADE PAPERBACK edition (15 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909807788
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909807785
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 610,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

The thinking person s John Le Carré --Tribune

His annual political-spy thriller is now as much of a must-read as the annual Dick Francis in his heyday ... It is a good yarn, with lots of twists, accurate depictions of MI6 officers, and a real sense of Berlin and London at the time. It is as good a spy thriller as will be published this year ... intellectually commanding, but also has a mordant wit and poignancy --Independent

A glorious, seething broth of historical fact and old-fashioned spy story --The Times --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Born in Baltimore and now based in Suffolk, Edward Wilson is a highly acclaimed writer whose novels focus on espionage and the Cold War. Winning praise from the TLS as well as the Mail on Sunday, Wilson is a master of ambiguity who creates likable villains and detestable heroes. He uses his background as a scholar, soldier, and cosmopolitan expatriate to create authentic settings and verifiable plots. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By atticusfinch1048 TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 July 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Whitehall Mandarin – A Classic Spy Novel

The Whitehall Mandarin by Edward Wilson is a brilliant old fashioned sprinkled with historical facts, spy story. This is a classic spy story in the mould of John Le Carre rather than Ian Fleming, multi layered rather than flash bang wallop. William Catesby the hero of our story may not be James Bond but he is as efficient as Bond’s Walther PPK.

William Catesby has risen from being a working class boy through Cambridge to becoming a ranking member of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligent Service or for us peasants better known as Mi6. His knowledge and experiences are all Cold War based having worked out of Berlin as a Cultural Attaché. He is brought back to London to help catch an American double agent and long time colleague in Jeffers Caudwell, a man of many contradictions as the story evolves.

Lady Somers is rich and powerful and more importantly she is the first female Permanent under Secretary to head up the Ministry of Defence. Catesby is sent to find out her back story and bury it so deep it will never surface again. What we get is a fantastic tour of London Sex Scandals of the 60s, crossed with the ineptness of the CIA the downfall of Ministers and daft wars. We see the intelligence agency at times acting like kids in the playground not wanting to share their toys even with their friends or simply not trusting each other.

He is sent to Vietnam to find Miranda, Lady Somers daughter to make things harder she is working with Viet Cong rather than on the American’s side. Somehow he has to get from the American side of Vietnam to the other side and the risk of death very high. He has to place his life in the hands of people you wouldn’t ask you to help you across the road.
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Was it all fact, or was it fiction. It was so realistic. An incredible insight into how things may well have been. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in modern history, an insight into the intelligence services, and drama.
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This is a very high quality sequel to The Envoy (although it can be read as a standalone) and for once the near-obligatory comparison with Le Carre is warranted. The writing is taut and the plotting complex. The skilled interweave of historical fact and fiction gives it a plausible and authentic feel – although it must be said that the central ‘secret’ is rather unconvincing. There is a relentless grimness in the Cold War power plays which is somewhat depressing but rings true, and Catesby (like Fournier in Envoy) is a good moral foil to the Machiavellian games of his bosses. The pick of this year’s crop of spy thrillers.
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Edward Wilson's latest novel about William Catesby is, yet again, a wonderfully creative blend of history and authors licence. Catesby is such an unlikely character to be intimately involved in the espionage world and he's certainly in the fast lane. In this tale Catesby is still at SIS in the 1960's with all of the scandals of that time breaking around him, but the kernel of the story is about the links between atomic weapons development and the communist world of the time. Wilson's novels are, in some ways, a historical treatise of the time leaving the reader wondering where fact ends and fiction begins. Catesby's namesake is often brought up in the wonderful dialogue between Henry Bone, Catesby's SIS boss and the current Catesby. The historic Catesby unfortunately lost his head through his involvement with Guy Fawkes, a point that Henry Bone never fails to make. This book, like the three preceding novels about William Catesby, is a wonderful read and experience.
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This seems to have been written by two people, one of whom tries to tell a real spy story and the other who seems to live in the realm of total fantasy. The aircraft adventure is ludicrous, as is the Cuban response to the pilot at that particular time. The trip across country during the Vietnam War is another section where the luck of the 'hero' is incredible. The truths he is after could have been obtained much better by other means, all of which are impossible to mention without giving away the story to those who don't want to know the answer before the end. That part of the outcome is beyond belief. At least the irresponsible character in Vietnam and the one he is trying to find out about end up as they should.

The fact that the 'hero' was employed in the first place is pretty lucky with his background of Marxist friends, but, since it is true that MI5 and MI6 were plagued around these times because of these type of employments, you would be forgiven if you wondered about his credentials and what Peter Wright would have made of him. I won't mention his hypocrisy towards a fellow officer with his own background.
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Edward Wilson is in a class of his own. I've just finished 'The Whitehall Mandarin' and have now read all of his books, and they've given me a great deal of pleasure, as well as providing quite a bit of food for thought. I'd guess that some of the disgruntled reviewers take issue with Catesby's ideological stance and allow this disagreement to colour their reviews...
Perhaps my 5 stars indicate a diametrically opposed viewpoint?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and can't wait for his next one.
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