M: MI5's First Spymaster by Andrew Cook
Published October 22, 2013
- Author Andrew Cook
I don’t remember buying this one but I have recently started getting more interested in the spy game, after reading some Ken Follett wartime adventures. There’s also the whole James Bond romanticism which paints spies in a fantastic, suave and ultimately successful light. This book attempts to tell a more realistic story - the real MI5 and how it came into being, at the hands of one William Melville.
The trouble with the book is that it doesn’t really have a lot of background documentation to go on, so there’s a lot of guesswork, and not a whole lot of facts to help us along. Whilst it’s fine to fill in the gaps occasionally, I think there’s a bit too much of that to make me really engage with the story. And there wasn’t enough information about the specific cases to really grab my interest, so that people were being arrested and I didn’t really care why.
It wasn’t the best true-life account I’ve ever read, but it did have some merit. I liked reading about his family, and how hit and miss the secret services were before the First World War. It’s a wonder any crimes were solved!