Judd, Alan - 'Uncommon Enemy'
This is a book about the difficulties in adjustment by a man, Charles Thoroughgood, who after serving in the army, worked for MI6 in a variety of roles in countries including Northern Ireland, Russia and Germany. He took early retirement on a reduced pension with the intention of writing a book but was persuaded to come back, with some reluctance on his part, after an absence of many years because an agent that he had acted as control for, has disappeared. It also traces a love affair that started when the protagonist Charles was a young man of barely 20 years at Oxford and which has resurfaced 30-40 years later in middle age but is it reciprocated?
Charles Thoroughgood has been arrested on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act and spends a lot of time in a cell thinking about his past life and what led him to his current situation. He remembers his time as an undergraduate at Oxford University when he first met his friend Nigel Measures and how they both got to know Sarah. Charles fell in love with her but Nigel ended up marrying her. Charles, when he graduated, joined the army and then MI6. Nigel entered the Foreign Office but eventually became the Deputy Head of the Single Intelligence Agency (SIA) which is the successor of present intelligence gathering bodies MI5, MI6 and GHQ. Charles was more used to the old MI6 that he experienced during the "cold war" with its dead letter drops and invisible ink and code books than the new digital age of intelligence. The Sarah he loved at Oxford became a solicitor and he asks for her to represent him when it becomes obvious that the present case against him is more than he can handle. When he was at Oxford and sleeping with Sarah she got pregnant with his baby; she decided to have it but give it up for adoption in Newcastle where she came from. The foster parents brought up the child and then the father died and the foster mother decided to take her child back to Ireland where her family lived.
Charles when he was on assignment in Northern Ireland for MI6 is asked to be control of a Provisional IRA (PIRA) member who wants to provide information on his colleagues in the PIRA and he does this. Charles pretends to be his English uncle and meets him in various hotels etc over a long period of time and is provided with background intelligence on PIRA and their targets etc. Charles decides to carry out his own background check on 'Gladiator' as the PIRA source is codenamed and discovers that he originally came from Newcastle and was adopted and that he, Charles, was possibly his blood father which seems a very strange coincidence.
How the present predicament of Charles is resolved and what happens to Sarah and Nigel leads to a very gripping story from a very experienced author of eight previous fiction titles and four non fiction including a biography on the founding of the secret service which gives this author an authority on his subject matter that should be respected. I enjoyed this book very much and will look out for his previous two titles with the same protagonist tracing his time in the army and during the cold war. The author also writes for the Daily Telegraph. Recommended.
Terry Halligan, England
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