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Author: Charles Cumming

Title: The Trinity Six

Publisher: HarperCollins

Hardback: 404 pages

ISBN: 978-0-00-733779-8

Price: £12.99

Publication Date: 03/02/2011


When I was born, it was the mid eighties and the Cold War was in its last throes. As a result, I have to admit that I don’t really know that much about the period [a shocking revelation I know – especially as I usually claim to know everything!]. So, reading this novel was actually the first time I had ever encountered the Cambridge Five – an (in)famous ring of spies [unsurprisingly, given the name, they were five in number!] who were all recruited by the Russians whilst they were attending Trinity College, Cambridge in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

But what if there was a sixth man – one who has escaped detection for all these years? When a set of old KGB documents comes into the possession of impoverished Russia expert Sam Gaddis, he begins to wonder whether this could be more than a wishful conspiracy theory. And if there were a sixth man, then it would be the kind of explosive story to re-establish his ailing academic career. But when sources start to die mysteriously, Gaddis is left with little evidence and in mortal peril – even if he doesn’t realise it – from people who will do anything to keep the past hidden.

The Trinity Six was a really enjoyable contemporary spy thriller, with plenty of twists to keep the reader on their toes and whose references are never too obtuse or over-complicated. Initially it is quite dialogue-heavy, but when it does burst into life  – as Gaddis begins to criss-cross Europe – it becomes an unputdownable read. And the final, cynical twist seems all too realistic and plausible – and is a sad reflection upon our modern world and its realpolitiks.

The characters are also very believable and well fleshed-out. Gaddis himself, with his failed marriage, young daughter and money problems, is an interesting protagonist, and I really liked that at no stage did he become the sort of gung-ho action hero that he patently wasn’t and could never be. He stumbles and bumbles his way along in a fairly realistic manner – Jason Bourne he certainly isn’t.

However, I did think that Gaddis’s beautiful young love interest, Holly Levette, was slightly too convenient a method of getting the plot going [she turns up at his book launch to tell him that she has found old KGB documents amongst her recently-deceased mother’s possessions – it does seem a bit implausible. Although, maybe I’m just jealous!].

On a slight aside, I really enjoyed – and laughed a lot when I read it – when Gaddis is described as wearing a corduroy jacket – thus propagating the cliché of academics and their love of corduroy, tweed and velveteen clothing [although, my father is a professor and does wear a tweed jacket, so maybe there is an element of truth to the stereotype!].

Full of intrigue and political machinations and with its pacy and accessible prose, The Trinity Six is an engrossing and highly enjoyable post Cold War espionage thriller, which certainly justifies the effusive jacket quotations likening Cumming to Deighton and Le Carré.
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