A Reluctant Spy

A gripping spy thriller debut

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Pub Date 12 Sep 2024 | Archive Date 26 Sep 2024

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'In the very top tier of espionage fiction' M. W. CRAVEN
'A twisting, edge-of-your-seat tale of mercenaries, greed, corruption, and espionage' I.S. BERRY
'Ultra-modern espionage, globe-trotting action and high-octane fun - this is Spooks on steroids' TIM GLISTER

Jamie Tulloch is a successful exec at a top tech company, a long way from the tough upbringing that drove him to rise so far and so quickly.

But he has a secret...since the age of 23, he's had a helping hand from the Legend Programme, a secret intelligence effort to prepare impenetrable backstories for undercover agents. Real people, living real lives, willing to hand over their identities for a few weeks in return for a helping hand with plum jobs, influence and access.

When his tap on the shoulder finally comes, it's swiftly followed by the thud of a body. Arriving at a French airport ready to hand over his identity, Jamie finds his primary contact dead, the agent who's supposed to step into his life AWOL and his options for escape non-existent.

Pitched into a deadly mission on hostile territory, Jamie must contend with a rogue Russian general, arms dealers, elite hackers, CIA tac-ops and the discovery of a brewing plan for war. Dangerously out of his depth, he must convince his sceptical mission handler he can do the job of a trained field agent while using his own life story as convincing cover.

Can Jamie play himself well enough to avoid being killed - and to avert a lethal global conflict?

'I was on the edge of my seat the whole time' ANTONY JOHNSTON
'A rip-roaring page-turning keep-you-up-all-night thriller' NICHOLAS BINGE, author of ASCENSION
'Smart, riveting, and eerily prescient' SUNYI DEAN, Sunday Times Bestselling author of THE BOOK EATERS
'A pulse-pounding, twisting thrill-a-minute read that Slow Horses fans are going to absolutely love' ADAM SIMCOX


'In the very top tier of espionage fiction' M. W. CRAVEN
'A twisting, edge-of-your-seat tale of mercenaries, greed, corruption, and espionage' I.S. BERRY

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ISBN 9781035416011
PRICE £22.00 (GBP)

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Average rating from 7 members

Featured Reviews

Jamie is in the Legend programme, where he lives a low-profile life in return for help with his finances and career. At some point, he will lend his identity to a spy on a mission so create a true backstory. When he goes to meet the agent in Paris to do the exchange of passports and go their separate ways, Jamie finds his handler has been killed and no sign of Garnet, the agent. In the meantime, there has been a breach of security in London and the Legends programme is compromised. Jeremy and the fabulous Sally Lime are racing against time to protect their agents and find the traitors.
Jamie flies to Zanzibar instead of Garnet and gets mixed up with Russian gangsters and in all sorts of trouble. He gets help from Nicola and the local team, and the Tanzanian secret service, who would rather this wasn't happening there.
I really enjoyed this, Jamie is very understated, but humourous, and thrives on the challenges that he meets. Lots of plot twists and a nail biting finale. Recommended.

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A Reluctant Spy has two big things going for it.

First, the concept is fresh and interesting: the Legend programme is a unique idea I've not seen done anywhere else in spy-thriller land, and it makes for a fantastic set-up. Normal people who give their identities over to spies for a short time in exchange for a smooth and easy life makes sense in today's digital age; you need that footprint for a believable cover story. We all love a fish-out-of-water moment, and with this set-up we have a perfect reason for Jamie to get sucked into a high-stakes situation with all plausible deniability. Goodman does a fantastic job of making every step of this feel natural and logical; though from the outside it sounds wild, while you're reading it makes perfect sense and you are rooting for Jamie to make it through undiscovered every step of the way.

This leads onto the second highlight: the propulsive, catchy writing that keeps you turning each page, hungry for more. Scenes and settings are described with evocative clarity, action sequences are quick and exciting, and characters are well-drawn and root-for-able (Sally Lime!!). A Reluctant Spy is a joy to read, showcasing both the best qualities of spy thrillers with a unique premise all its own. Highly recommended!

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A fine new entry into the spy genre.

"A Reluctant Spy" opens in 2003, where an undercover agent finds himself in deep water when, during an interrogation, his cover is blown wide open by someone simply carrying out an internet search.

Fast forward to the present, and said agent is responsible for a department whose sole job is to create "legends" - totally authentic cover stories for agents going undercover. They're authentic because they belong to real people, living real lives, but who occasionally allow someone to "borrow" their life while they enjoy a holiday somewhere secret. What cover story could be more unbreakable? That's what Jamie Tulloch thought - his instructions are to make contact in Paris, where an agent will adopt his persona, while he Jamie, heads off to the sun to a few months. Except when he gets there, the contact is dead.

And so the reader, and Jamie, are drawn into an increasingly dangerous and complex drama, as he takes it upon himself to step into the agent's shoes. He travels to Zanzibar where he gets involved with the Russian mafia and arms traders, and it's only when his handlers discover what's happened that they realise he has a knack for the job. He agrees to continue, with the help of Nicola, his handler. The repartee between them is very good, and I'd like to read more of them.

The book takes place in London, where the intelligence service is trying to determine who has hacked their network, and Zanzibar. The events in London as wonderfully described, as departments seek to apportion blame or garner credit for saving the day. Like the works of LeCarre and Deighton, "A Reluctant Spy" places an amateur firmly in an in-over-his-head situation, where events drag him along at a pace. In fact the whole book moves along at a fair old page-turning pace, stopping occasionally to examine the scenery (Zanzibar with all its sights and smells) or lingering on Jamie as he struggles to maintain his cover. If he sometimes appears a bit too able to cope, it just adds to the drama. Jamie is a Scot, and fellow Scots will enjoy his occasional lapse into colloquial speech when he's under pressure.

Fans of spy / espionage stories are going to lap this book up - it's a perfect blend of old-school spying and new-school technology. The author is a fellow Scot, already the author of several SF novels, but this move into spy territory is inspired. If you're a fan of Charles Beaumont and Matthew Richardson, it's right up your street. Heartily recommended.

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Incredibly written, a plot that gripped me and wouldn’t let me go, character study that made me love our hero a bit. Clever, relentless and a wild ride.

I cannot recommend this enough for anyone who enjoys espionage novels and wants a pretty new take on it.


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How on earth is this a debut novel? Takes everything I love about military fiction and distils it down into a tightly-plotted, fast-paced, complex espionage tale with a very human element.
The twin storylines in London and Zanzibar were seamlessly interwoven so that I was fully invested in both, and the stakes were real enough and high enough to have me regularly yelling at the page (mostly along the lines of "Jamie, you bloody idiot, do not go in there!").
Highly recommended to anyone who loves thrillers, espionage tales, or military fiction.
I can't wait to see what this author does next.

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