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on 8 June 2017
'A Spy By Nature' is Charles Cumming's first novel, and it many ways it shows - it's not nearly as polished as his superb Thomas Kell trilogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn't particularly like the main character, Alec Milius, who is deceitful and self-centred to an almost narcissistic degree, and I didn't care much for the fact that the narrative is all in the present tense. I was therefore tempted to give up when I was a quarter of the way through, and nothing particularly exciting had happened, but I persevered and was glad I did. The story has a strong plot and the pace gets steadily faster until reaching a powerful ending.
Although 'A Spy By Nature' is not Charles Cumming's best work, it's still better than most other spy fiction out there and I will definitely be reading the second volume in this series.
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on 15 March 2017
disappointing - I have liked Charles Cummings' other books but this one is so slow to get started - with little dramatic pull
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on 24 April 2017
very good
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on 28 July 2014
Really enjoyed this book. A page turner with a good suspense and tradecraft. I recommend it to all readers of this genre.
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on 16 June 2017
Goo holiday read
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on 6 April 2017
very good
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on 2 June 2017
nothing happens until way in . . . I never finished it
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on 16 December 2016
A great deal of uninteresting fluff. A underperforming male in his early twenties becoming a spy after a few hours of training. After being lulled into a combination of boredom and lack of interesting and unconvincing characters the last few pages of the book are dedicated to the author killing off most of the characters. This author he published extensively. The quality of this book resembles that of a GCSE essay written in haste by a pupil who is still trying to master their subject. Two stars for trying ! May however be best to not take the subject to A level.
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on 9 June 2008
The spy novel has always, to me, demanded a higher calling of prose than the traditional thriller. That higher plane of reasoning, above squeamishness, emotion and moral relativity, all that great game stuff - it's the SAS to Tom Clancy's reliable GI. Of the current generation of spy novelists it's hard to pick a winner. Henry Porter is unimpeachable on detail and realism but cannot apparently write an action sequence to save his noble Blair-bothering life. David Wolstencroft is at heart a scriptwriter and his books read like treatments. And Charles Cumming: perhaps the only British writer yet to equal the authority of American spy novelists such as David Ignatius and Olen Steinhauer. Others have noted flaws: his character Alec is full of weaknesses, secondary characters appear in detail and are then consigned to fates we the reader shall apparently never know, the ending has all the resolution of Sopranos's famous black out... the fact that a sequel exists may or may not make this forgivable but Cummings' skill is give to place inside the mind of a serial deceiver in a minute-by -minute sense. Yes, there is a sense that much of what's here is fleshing out a fairly straightforward and basic plot but at the same time, reading those sequences is gripping - it's only afterwards you realize that much of the significant details and observations are in fact insignificant red herrings that provide merely colour and character. A meeting in a restaurant takes up 40 odd pages for example - good prose but at the end of which you'll think `well so what?' Much later of course, you might think of Fortner's petulant outburst over his mint choc chip in a different light...
Cumming gives us an assured and interesting introduction to the Alec Milius story though readers may bear in mind is like a Chinese meal: it takes ages to prepare, goes down pretty quickly and you're hungry again half an hour later. But that doesn't mean it didn't taste great.
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on 17 May 2013
Well, it's not Le Carré, that's for sure. Marginally diverting, with an accurate description of the Civil Service Selection Board (CSSB or sisby as he calls it) procedure. But the plot moves slowly, so slowly in parts that you begin to lose enthusiasm for continuing. His later novels are better.
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