Queen of Spies by Paddy Hayes

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Queen of Spies by Paddy Hayes

Category: History
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Erin Hull
Reviewed by Erin Hull
Summary: Espionage is a fascinating side of history and Paddy Hayes has created a vivid and detailed tale of the life of one of its most impressive members. Daphne Parks climbs the ranks in a misogynist institution and achieves any goal she is set. Her life is one of adventure set against a post-imperial backdrop. Anyone who enjoys history will find something to love in this book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0715650431

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Paddy Hayes has created an extensive account of the life and career of an extraordinary female spy. Daphne Park has faced sexism, brutality and betrayal. She has bravely stood against terror, charmed diplomats and navigated her way through the then alien Soviet Russia. Hers is an incredible life, one that brings the nail-biting and seat teetering that we expect from a spy story.

What drew me towards this book immediately was the concept of learning about a female spy. With James Bond embedded in our culture and the mystery that surrounds espionage, the opportunity to gain insight into this elusive side of history appealed greatly. Adding the fact that the central figure of this book was a woman made it seem even more unusual as women are so often overlooked in history and, as I learnt from this book, women in the intelligence service were often reduced to the role of temptress, using their sexuality to extract information from their unknowing prey.

This book begins in a very narrative and fictional style with Daphne gliding through the snowy Russian streets, ensuring that she has shaken off the bad guys as she heads for a top secret meeting. It is interesting to follow Daphne's career path as she travels from Africa to Europe to Asia, undergoing any mission that she has been set. Truly it is inspiring to see her role in the intelligence service grow. Her dedication is not only to her ambitions but also to her morals. She is willingly honest even when it is inconvenient to her goals. On top of this, Parks is adventurous and smart, an idyllic figure that, when her decision to stick to the intelligence service like glue was questioned, said 'I shall have more power, more responsibility and more satisfaction, you wait'.

The author later described her as 'not exceptionally bright', yet I had gotten the idea from the start of the book that she was brimming with wit and knowledge. Perhaps the author had hyperbolised her charisma in the beginning to make her more interesting. It seems impossible that she could be described in this way after she had shown so much intelligence and awareness in her work. Maybe four decades of research into the world of intelligence (an effort that clearly comes across in his writing) has made the author biased to Park. Recording someone else's life will always present the issue of never knowing what truly happens inside their head and while Daphne Park was an excellent character to read about, at times she seemed more like a work of fiction than an actual person.

However, this was a book that I truly enjoyed and it was more informative than I expected. From the title I anticipated the story of Daphne Park's work in the SIS. Of course this was the main aspect of the book but it was also very useful in learning about other aspects of history, like the post imperial era and the role of western powers in governing their old colonies. It was clear to see the corruption as the CIA took up its role of meddling as the Congo was given independence from its colonisers. Here, Hayes played with the three act structure when describing Lumumba’s rise and fall as Prime Minister. It was refreshing to see this in a non-fiction book and it seemed that Hayes had a clear consciousness of style when writing it.

This book was entertaining and thrilling, yet also informative and thought-provoking. It has explored many aspects of history and displays Hayes’ passion for the intelligence service. It has a wide appeal to anyone who enjoys history or simply a good story.

Further reading: Mysterious Messages - A History of Codes and Ciphers by Gary Blackwood

Buy Queen of Spies by Paddy Hayes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Queen of Spies by Paddy Hayes at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Queen of Spies by Paddy Hayes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Queen of Spies by Paddy Hayes at Amazon.com.


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