Charles McCarry - The Secret Lovers Print

This review first appeared in The Sunday Age - 08 June 2008.

Charles McCarry was a cult figure among spy novelists, respected but too little read. His recent republications show that he is an American equivalent of John le Carre. Both writers have the edge in knowing their subject personally, being former spooks.  McCarry also tends to be eerily prescient, as when a novel, written in 1975 (but set in 1963) resonated with Gulf War II. That was The Tears of Autumn, probably his apex. The Secret Lovers is not on the same level, but still far above most modern spy fiction.  A dissident novelist smuggles his masterwork out of Soviet Russia.  Paul Christopher, McCarry's series hero, receives it just before the courier is murdered. How has the security breach happened?  So beings a tale that reaches from the bedroom to the Spanish Civil War.  At the heart of this story is a love affair, a tightly kept but powerful secret.  The narrative is a superb artefact, with one fault:  McCarry can write women's speech, but not look into their minds.
Cover of Charles McCarry's novel  - The Secret Lovers
Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 February 2010 07:54