Wolstencroft’s second (Good News, Bad News, 2004) is a twisty thriller about likeable spies trying to come in from the post–Cold War cold.
They comprise the new graduating class of espionage school: fledgling agents, ten of the best and brightest, young, idealistic and brave, willing to risk their lives sniffing out the geo-political secrets that undermine the well-being of the mother country. Probationers, they’re called, or, sardonically, “lilywhites,” and before they’re quite ready, they are put to work in the real world. There’s Ben Sinclair posted to Lima, Peru, for instance, Lucy Matthews to Mexico City, Nat Turner to Havana, the remaining seven well and truly scattered, all a bit nervous, but doing their utmost to settle in and cope in whatever way the job demands. Now, for the first turning of the screw: On one harrowing day, those seven colleagues are swiftly killed, a total wipe-out, only Ben, Lucy and Nat left alive. Now, safe houses are no longer safe; handlers have become hunters. No clues to help explain why, no resources to help them survive. They manage to hook up online, however, and that does take some of the edge off. They arrange a rendezvous. In Brazil, it’s Lucy who recalls the story of Contact Zero, the mysterious life-line for shunned spies, spies without a country, spies as desperate as the three of them. But what is Contact Zero? Is it a place, a person, a kind of underground railroad? Or is it just a story? They decide they have to find out. Back in London, the puppet master, brilliant and despicable, smiles with satisfaction, seeing the game progress exactly as he had planned.
Occasionally incomprehensible, unfailingly entertaining.