Title: The Unlikely Spy
Author: Daniel Silva
Silva, Daniel (1996). The Unlikely Spy. New York: Villard
PS3619.I5443 U54 1996
- World War, 1939-1945–England–Fiction.
- World War, 1939-1945–Secret service–Fiction.
- London (England)–Fiction.
Date Updated: June 23, 2015
Television producer Silva delivers a fine, old-fashioned WW II debut thriller that pits an English don against Admiral Wilhelm Canaris’ Abwehr—in a deadly contest of wits on the eve of the Allied invasion of occupied Europe.
Recruited for the War Office’s MI5 by his friend Winston Churchill, Alfred Vicary (a shrewd history professor who was badly wounded as a behind-the-lines courier during WW I) is assigned early in 1944 to a hush-hush effort to mislead Hitler’s intelligence services concerning D-day’s primary target. While the bachelor academic employs captured German spies to transmit disinformation to Berlin, radio intercepts confirm that a sleeper agent has been activated to determine where the amphibious assault will come ashore. Despite a discouraging lack of leads, Vicary sets about tracking down the hitherto unsuspected operative (a murderous young woman long established in London under the name Catherine Blake) and the Wehrmacht veteran parachuted in to give her a hand.
Dogged police work eventually puts counterespionage watchers on Catherine’s trail but not before she beds a susceptible US Navy officer. Aware that the besotted Yank’s knowledge could put SHAEF’s greatest secret in enemy hands, Vicary coolly blackmails him into cooperating in the ongoing deception. Before he can roll up the network, however, Catherine’s alert accomplice verifies that MI5 is on to them. Leaving a slew of bodies in their wake, the two bolt for a U-boat waiting offshore. Although the fugitives are prevented from escaping the British Isles or reporting what they know, Vicary is found wanting by his superiors. Only after Allied forces are marching through France to the Rhineland does Vicary learn that he played a vital role in an endgame more duplicitous than any the department’s workaday treacheries had prepared him for.
A fine, twisty tale of military intelligence, notable for graceful prose, credibly motivated characters, and evocative detail.
I read this in Readers’ Digest Condensed Books.
 Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. (1997, Vol. 229, #3, pp. 151-319).