George and Charlie are both stuck in dead-end jobs working at a photo-developing booth in a London underground station. Unknown to them, they are both spies who have been mistakenly assigned the same cover. The nature of their work is such that they’re never comfortable enough to share confidences or become bosom buddies, but they develop a friendship of sorts. One day they simultaneously receive orders to eliminate the other and from then on, things get deadly very quickly.
After some tense moments, self-preservation overcomes their instinct to carry out orders and kill the other. They then put their heads together to figure out why they are suddenly top on the Agency’s hit list, even as they struggle to flee the omnipotent and menacing Agency’s presence and influence. If their entire career and training has taught them anything, it’s not to trust anybody but yourself. As much as this peculiar situation calls for them to depend on each other, is trust truly possible between two spies?
David Wolstencroft’s novel begins slowly, even pedantically, but readers are advised to take the slow beginning chapters in stride. The narrative soon picks up speed and a chase like none other begins. As part of the story, Wolstencroft takes readers into the shadowy, secretive world of spy games, their intensive mental and physical training and their jobs where no one can be trusted and trust is for fools, as well as their private lives. While this part of the plot together with the two spies on the run adds some spark and sizzle, there is an overall air of gloominess, much like the London fog which throws a pall on what could have been a sparkling spy thriller. This is both good and bad – good because it’s reflects the dreariness of the spies’ lives, of their situation and their attitudes in general; bad because all but the most persistent readers will find it discouraging. That apart, the plot is somewhat unique, and the nature of relationship between Charles and George is so suspenseful as to provide surprise after surprise until the very shocking end. Overall, this is a very interesting and well-crafted book that a bit of élan and a more brisk pace might have enhanced even further.