Books & Literature

Book Review: The Spy’s Wife, by Fiona McIntosh

THRILLER: The highly anticipated new historical adventure from the bestselling author of The Champagne War.

An engaging, rich read.

The year is 1936. A resurgent, rearming Germany has begun to take an interest once again in the industrial capacities of its former enemies. The regime sends out its spies but does not expect one of them to fall in love.

The Spy’s Wife is the latest historical thriller from the pen of Fiona McIntosh, in the same mould as (but not related to) The French Promise and The Pearl Thief. As one would expect, the book showcases McIntosh’s trademark strong female leads, tight plotting, and just the right amount of romance.

Evie, an English stationmaster’s daughter who soon becomes the titular spy’s wife, is just the lead you need for this sort of thing: capable, possessed of a wide skill set, and showing a can-do attitude that the men around her lack. Evie drives the plot forward with her resourcefulness and derring-do. It would be easy to dismiss some of the more improbable parts of her character (she can lip read in German!). However, without these facets of Evie’s character there wouldn’t be much of a plot. As Sir Walter Scott tells us: cometh the hour, cometh the man, or in this case, someone much better.

Evie’s nemesis is a Bavarian blonde bombshell named Giselle, a dedicated National Socialist and holder of the key to Evie’s freedom. McIntosh uses Giselle artfully, not letting her become merely a two-dimensional portrait of the standard Nazi but rather telling us that she too is human, though flawed, as she plays a game of cat and mouse with Evie ultimately not for a political cause but for the love of Roger, Evie’s husband and the spy of the title. 

The story is tight, moving swiftly from rural England to London and then to Munich. Evie’s world is well realised, from the warren of back-streets in Munich’s Altstadt to Ferdinand Porsche’s Stuttgart estate. McIntosh is not given to descriptions of sweeping vistas but instead confines herself to the things that Evie encounters closely. It would have been interesting to see what Evie, a stationmaster’s daughter, thinks of the German railways as she uses them, but this is not what we’re here for. Instead, we follow Evie as she commits a daring heist of industrial blueprints, taking them literally from under the nose of Germany’s biggest movers and shakers. The novel culminates in a tense scene of industrial espionage the envy of Clive Cussler or Matthew Reilly.

But Evie is not an adventurer in the mould of Dirk Pitt or Jack West. She has no desire to save the world, but rather her husband and his son. The lengths she goes to not only in Germany but also in England are a testament to the strength of her heart and the depth of her affection.

It is hard to say who the audience for The Spy’s Wife is, because it is hard to think of anyone who would not enjoy it. It is simultaneously a thriller and a romance, which makes it almost unique on the bookshop shelves.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by DC White

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: November 2021
RRP: $32.99

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