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The Trinity Six: A Novel by Charles Cumming
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The Trinity Six: A Novel (edition 2011)

by Charles Cumming

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Member:EctopicBrain
Title:The Trinity Six: A Novel
Authors:Charles Cumming
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The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming

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Anyone who is in any way interested in spies, spying and the world of espionage in general, has surely read at least one of John le Carré's genre defining classics. Not the later gardening and Panama nonsense, but the unforgettable Cold War, 'Smiley' intrigues.

Especially if you're English, that is.

And if you are lucky enough to be English and of a certain age, then you probably already have the whole '30's Cambridge spy ring, the old boy network running the country from their hushed, mahogany and teak Club in The City, the Cold War and the whole East vs West thing as a big game, already with you when you read a book like this. You don't need the spy world explained to you again from scratch. You know what a 'dead letter-box' is, you know what 'tradecraft', 'Moscow Centre' and 'C' are. The author can, with a nod and a wink and relatively few words, have you with him and get on with other things. You understand the world he is writing about and what I can well imagine would seem a rather unbelievable, class-ridden, privileged, strange world - makes perfect sense.

(However, that could be surely be why a non-middle-aged, non-English person would get nothing from, for example, the recent (poor) 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' re-adaption. My Danish wife, for example).

But one big problem the way I see it, is like this: How much is fact and how much is John le Carré fiction become fact in our collective recollection? I can imagine that it might also be a problem for any new authors wanting to write a novel set in this world: Do you write about actual institutions, actual events and run the risk that no one believes the world you're describing, or do you use some of le Carré's inventions, base your fiction on fiction and have your readers assume you're writing about the truth.

Basically what I mean is, that all novels written into this particular period of the spy genre, surely have to be compared in some way or another, with the world le Carré created. How they stand up to that comparison is, unfortunately, how we then rate them. "It's good, but it's not as good as le Carré." "It's better than le Carré." "It's unrealistic (doesn't use le Carre's world)" That kind of thing. Maybe.

Whatever your opinions or experience of le Carré and the spy genre, it's well worth giving Charles Cummings' 'Trinity Six' a go. it won't disappoint. It is set in the recent past, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but is actually all about the present day repercussions from events that took place over the eighty years up until the fall of Communism. A middle-aged, recently separated from his wife academic, a lecturer in Russian affairs and part-time writer, gets dragged into present day intrigues and puts himself unknowingly in danger by getting himself caught up in other, old spy games. We travel around in Europe (surely a little less exciting since the fall of the Berlin Wall?) and we meet a variety of nice, not so nice and not so sure if they're nice, characters. There are young spies, middle-aged spies and un-reformed old Cambridge spies. It's very nearly bang up-to-date, technology-wise, but with enough links back to the good old spying glory days, to satisfy those still missing decent books about the Cold War - me, for instance. It's nicely paced and focussed, it doesn't dash unnecessarily about all over the place, it stays believable and has some decent twists, turns and revelations. Of course, the ordinary person caught up in an extraordinary world the don't understand, is nothing new, but the intrigue is genuine and there's some nice moments of suspense and uncertainty.

'Trinity Six' is a good, enjoyable read which often feels like an Alan Furst, (obviously set today rather than between the wars). That's absolutely ok with me. For those of us who have read le Carré's spy books, there's no avoiding the fact that it's not quite be up there with the Master's best. But if you haven't read le Carré, you may actually be the lucky ones and so 'Trinity Six' is an excellent entré to the mirror world of British old-school espionage.
( )
  Speesh | Mar 29, 2014 |
Another new author and an excellent read. Le Carre style espionage, exciting with good characters and great settings.
Thank you public library for the ability to read so much without the expense! ( )
  librarian1204 | Apr 26, 2013 |
Eh. Not great. ( )
  jeremyfarnumlane | Apr 3, 2013 |
A good read but not his best... However, I did especially like the last chapter.

One interesting item in the book is the use of sodium fluoroacetate [although he spelled it wrong] to assassinate one of the characters. The symptoms of poisoning can look like the victim had heart failure. In the book he says it is undetectable after death but I couldn't find anything about that on the Internet. It apparently tastes just like salt.

This was the first time I have come across this seemingly simple method. ( )
  EctopicBrain | Dec 4, 2012 |
Espionage aficionados likely know of the Cambridge Five: Blunt, Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Cairncross. This book takes that idea and adds the possibility of a sixth man to the mix, with a professor of Russian history being put onto the scent by a journalist friend. He knows there's something going on because the bodies are starting to pile up -- will he himself survive long enough to tell the story?

My reaction to the premise was amused skepticism, but I figured it was worth a shot. And overall it proved enjoyable. Actually I ended up liking some of the peripheral characters more than the protagonist, Charles Gaddis -- particularly the retired spooks. I think what prevented me from liking Gaddis more was his ongoing impression that every woman he met was hitting on him. Vain much? Fortunately there are very few naughty scenes to detract from the espionage aspect, which, revolving as it does around old files and case histories, does have an air of Tinker Tailor to it (although Tinker Tailor has more depth). The story moves at a good clip and is easy to pick up and put down again, making it very suitable for travel reading -- in print format. I originally started reading this in audio and had to stop after one disc, as the narrator's voice seemed better suited to a non-fiction book: he spoke in a very Clipped. Tense and Dramatic. Manner. and the characters were a bit difficult to distinguish; in contrast, he read the introductory Note about the Cambridge Five very well.

To summarize: if you like spies and the Cambridge Five and are curious about this book, it's worth a shot (in print). ( )
  rabbitprincess | Oct 16, 2012 |
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Epigraph
You know, you should never catch a spy. Discover him and then control him, but never catch him. A spy causes far more trouble when he's caught.
—Harold Macmillan
Dedication
For my sister, Alex
for her children, Lucy, Edward, and Sophie
and to the memory of Simon Pilkington (1938-2009)
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"The dead man was not a dead man. He was alive but he was not alive. That was the situation."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312675291, Hardcover)

A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book for 2011

The most closely-guarded secret of the Cold War is about to be exposed – the identity of a SIXTH member of the infamous Cambridge spy ring. And people are killing for it… 

London, 1992. Late one night, Edward Crane, 76, is declared dead at a London hospital. An obituary describes him only as a 'resourceful career diplomat'. But Crane was much more than that – and the circumstances surrounding his death are far from what they seem. 

Fifteen years later, academic Sam Gaddis needs money. When a journalist friend asks for his help researching a possible sixth member of the notorious Trinity spy ring, Gaddis knows that she's onto a story that could turn his fortunes around. But within hours the journalist is dead, apparently from a heart attack. 

Taking over her investigation, Gaddis trails a man who claims to know the truth about Edward Crane. Europe still echoes with decades of deadly disinformation on both sides of the Iron Curtain. And as Gaddis follows a series of leads across the continent, he approaches a shocking revelation – one which will rock the foundations of politics from London to Moscow…

“Cumming's novel is characterized by a gripping sense of realism. He displays a vast knowledge of spycraft and Cold War history, and the dense, three-dimensional world he crafts comes complete with seedy hotels and smoky nightclubs. The result is absolutely gripping. Taut, atmospheric and immersive—an instant classic.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on The Trinity Six

The Trinity Six is a Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 Thrillers title.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Hard-up Russia expert Dr. Sam Gaddis finally has a lead for a book that could set his career back on track. He has staggering new information about an unknown sixth member of the infamous Cambridge spy ring -- a man who has evaded detection for his entire life. But when his source suddenly dies, Gaddis is left with just shreds of his investigation, and no idea that he is already in too deep.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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