The accidental spy has always been a popular figure in espionage fiction, a reluctant agent’s predicament being a good way of engaging readers’ sympathies for an essentially unlovable trade.
Hellyer’s Trip by Philip Prowse (Kernel, £4.99) is the first in a series about Nick Hellyer, a literature student kicked out of Cambridge University in 1966 after a psychedelia-related indiscretion in sinful London.
He’s given an opportunity to win redemption, and indeed avoid the magistrate’s court, by taking up a post as a teacher in Alexandria. With, of course, a few other duties on the side, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government.
Nick enjoys his clandestine involvements with lonely diplomatic wives but things become considerably more serious as the secret world counts down to the Six Days War.
This author knows and conveys his chosen period and place well, aided by a central character who displays exactly the right balance between naivety and foxiness.
Morning Star 24 May 2018