THE WHITEHALL MANDARIN by Edward Wilson

THE WHITEHALL MANDARIN

KIRKUS REVIEW

Another Cold War adventure for British MI6 agent Catesby, working at a time when a triple-agent double cross was de rigueur.

Wilson's complicated narrative opens in England, where Catesby is pursuing an American diplomat spying for the Soviet Union. Cauldwell, the double agent, is getting his information from the titled and moneyed British sort who aren’t averse to a weekend country-house orgy and who therefore become perfect extortion targets when they return to Whitehall to tend the Empire’s remnants. It’s all very le Carré until the captured Cauldwell is transferred to U.S. custody and then escapes. At that point, Wilson’s tale goes James Bond: a hijacked DC-7 chased by Super Sabres; a parachute drop into Cuba’s Sierra Madre just in time for Castro to proclaim victory. Central to the tale is Lady Somers, Britain’s first female minister of defense; she has a serious problem with her drug-taking Maoist daughter, Miranda, who's fled England to serve the Revolution. Catesby is sent to Vietnam to find her, and the tale goes all Graham Greene. Thematically, Wilson cares little for the machinations of the old-boy aristocracy who find themselves at the helms of superpowers. He takes shots at Hiroshima's psycho-sexual implications, the Bay of Pigs bumbling, Mao's bad dental habits and the realpolitik of Red China’s quest for the hydrogen bomb. This cynically complex plot is laid over perfectly described settings, from London to Moscow to Vietnam. Wilson’s characters and their consciences come alive to lend the book its power. "The wonderful thing about espionage wasn’t what enemies did to each other, but the way allies stabbed each other in the back," he writes.

A deftly plotted homage to the mavens of Cold War spy thrillers.

Pub Date: May 27th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-909807-53-2
Page count: 372pp
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2014




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionTHE PATRIOT THREAT by Steve Berry
by Steve Berry
FictionA MAN WITHOUT BREATH by Philip Kerr
by Philip Kerr