The Spy Who Inspired Me by Stephen Clarke
|The Spy Who Inspired Me by Stephen Clarke|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Whilst this is a good spy spoof, I found it enjoyable just as a good, historical spy thriller in itself! Interesting characters, plenty of action, and a whistle stop tour of Northern France...|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 234||Date: November 2020|
|External links: Author's website|
This is a spoof spy story, that isn't about James Bond. Or Ian Fleming. But it features a man called Ian Lemming, who dresses well and 'likes the ladies' and who works for the secret service, but in the planning side of things more than the active service. Lemming finds himself put on a mission with a female spy called Margaux, and the pair end up stranded in Normandy, with Margaux on a desperate mission to unearth traitors in the resistance network, and Lemming desperately trying to keep up with her!
A lot of the humour for me centred around Lemming's character, and his struggles with leading this undercover life with Margaux and being told what to do by a woman. I really enjoyed their first forays in France as they try to figure out how to carry out the mission (which Margaux won't reveal to Lemming, so he is constantly worrying that she herself is a traitor!) It's humorous to see Lemming (who clearly thinks he's absolutely marvellous) struggle and worry, and it's nice that Margaux is always one step ahead and completely in control.
I love that it features a female spy, and that she is quite clearly more capable than Lemming. But it's an interesting relationship that develops between them as he stops seeing her as someone he fancies, and starts to really respect and admire her. Margaux was, for me, the more interesting character, but I wasn't sure about the resolution to her part of the story. She has to undertake something, which I was surprised by. It's tricky to explain without giving spoilers, but I will just say that whilst I wasn't sure how I felt about her character afterwards, that it definitely made it a more interesting story.
The resistance takes centre stage in the story, and it highlights the enormous risks they took to try to help defeat the Nazis. There are some real moments of peril throughout, so at times it feels like a thriller in itself. You know that if they are caught, then all is lost, and so it's tense and suspenseful as you read. So although this is a spoof, it's actually a good spy story in itself, and it doesn't just rely on humour and innuendo to move the book along but it has a good plot, good action, and a good pace to the writing. I was engaged, I wanted to know what was going to happen, and it made me chuckle along the way. The writing felt atmospheric, and evocative of the period. I could easily imagine the different locations the pair find themselves in, and I very much enjoyed the characters they meet along the way.
There are other characters parodied in the story, such as another famous literary figure, and these aspects are well done. But I think what I enjoyed most was the spy story in itself, rather than the comedic aspects. I enjoyed it as a piece of historical fiction too as this era is a time I always enjoy reading about, having listened to my grandparents tell stories from their own wartime escapades (not quite like those in the book, I hasten to add!)
Overall, it's a good read from various different angles, whether you're looking for a good WW2 story, or a spy story, or something lighthearted and a bit different to read.
For more World War Spying, you might enjoy A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy. Or for more about the real Ian Fleming and James Bond, this might be of interest For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond by Ben Macintyre.
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