Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Restless" by William Boyd

The narrative begins the summer of 1976 when Ruth Gilmartin, a single mother living in Oxford England, discovers that her mother, Sally, is really a Russian émigrée called Eva Delectorskaya. Sally, after decades of concealing her past, but now fearing her life is in danger, reveals her recruitment and involvement in espionage work during WWII.

Ruth learns that Sally had been enlisted to work as an undercover agent for the British Intelligence Services, where she was trained in various covert operations as a spy, and where the number one rule was “to trust no one”. Working in France, England and Scotland she eventually is transferred to New York, and was assigned as an undercover news reporter for the TransOceanic News Agency where she works to plant pro-British propaganda in newspapers to spur the United States government into joining the war effort. When a field operation goes wrong, Sally is forced to cover her tracks and goes into hiding. She has maintained a low profile for thirty years, but now believes she is being watched and that someone from the past has come back to silence her.

Skeptical at first, Ruth is gradually drawn into her mother’s story and sets out to hunt down Sally’s former mentor, Lucas Fromer, hoping to alleviate her mother's fears.

While Ruth’s life as a teacher of English takes a back seat to her mother’s spy tale, the author presents a vivid account of Sally’s life of ciphers and double agents, detailing the mounting tension of each mission.

Overall, “Restless” is an absorbing spy thriller set against a largely unknown episode in U.S.-British relations.