Thursday 17 June 2021

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ What About The Girl? by K T Cavan


ASP  an imprint of Indie Book
1 May 2021

Clemency White Series #1

My thanks to VineHouse UK for my copy of this book

Berne, 1962. When Clemency is asked to help Peter Aspinal pick up some film from one of his agents, she jumps at the chance. It’s a welcome change from her routine desk job at the British Embassy. Peter himself is the kind of charming, cultured and slightly dangerous man a girl could fall for. But then the romance turns to terror as the KGB move in. Cut off from help in the Alps, Clemency finds she has hidden skills and courage. But will it be enough to save her and Peter from elimination by their ruthless opponents?

First in a series featuring Clemency White, a cypher clerk in the Foreign Office who ends up as one of MI6’s top agents. With 60s glamour, exotic locations, plenty of action and a strong female lead, they mix the excitement of the Connery-Bond era with a feminine sensibility.

The series is on-topic for 2021, with the same 1960s settings and themes of women’s place in society as The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and The Queen’s Gambit. The next two titles, The Girl Knows Nothing and Come Spy with Me, will be published later in the summer of 2021.

Author KT Cavan explained the origins of the series.

“As a child I was fascinated by the courage and achievements of wartime agents like Violette Szabo and Noor Inayat Khan. But in the Cold War fiction, the agents – James Bond, Harry Palmer, George Smiley – are almost all men. I thought there was room for a woman.  Clemency does things differently. I wanted to explore how she grows and learns and realises she can do so much more than type letters or wait for a husband. But it’s still a spy series and there are still shoot-outs and car chases and secret dossiers.

๐Ÿ“– My thoughts...

Clemency White is working as a secretary at the British Embassy in Berne when she is asked by Major Peter Aspinall to help him out with the small matter of working undercover. That Peter Aspinal is working for MI6 is a well known secret within the Embassy however, as Clemency is about to discover, working in a clandestine operation, although exciting and glamorous, is also fraught with danger.

Setting the story in 1962, at the height of the Cold War with Russia, allows the story to have a certain ambiance and as old grudges fester, so Clemency, along with Peter Aspinal, gets drawn into circumstances beyond their control and both of them have to make some pretty significant decisions.

Whilst there is plenty of detail, particularly about drop offs, and keeping a close eye on not being trailed and of always keeping one step ahead of the enemy, there is also an interesting focus on the burgeoning relationship between Clemency and Aspinal, which does add a little piquancy to how the story eventually plays out

What About the Girl? definitely gets the series off to a good start. The author writes well and allows the story to evolve gradually without getting too complicated about the political agenda. There is a definite sixties vibe to the story, from the striking cover which is so reminiscent of spy thrillers of the time, to the perception early on in the story that it’s the men who are in charge, but it’s good to see that notion being challenged as Clemency starts to show just what she is capable of achieving.

It’s interesting to have an espionage thriller which allows a woman in the nineteen sixties to take a lead role as all too often historical spy stories in this era have, as their focus, the intrepid hero who saves the day, so having an intelligent female take a central role makes the story just that little bit different and highly enjoyable. I look forward to meeting Clemency White in future stories.

There’s something of a mystery to the author whose own work in intelligence and security means they have to remain in the shadows of a pseudonym.



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