A debut espionage thriller from an extraordinary new talent.
London, 1905. Margaret Trant lives with her ailing, irascible mother in a dreary boarding house in St John’s Wood. The pair have fallen on hard times, with only Margaret’s meagre salary from a ramshackle import-export company keeping them afloat.
When a stranger on the tram hands her a newspaper open at the recruitment page, Margaret spots an advertisement that promises to ‘open new horizons beyond your wildest dreams!’ After a gruelling interview, she finds herself in a new position as a secretary in a dingy backstreet shop.
But all is not as it seems; she is in fact working for a highly secret branch of the intelligence service, Bureau 8, whose mission is to track down and neutralise a ruthless band of anarchists known as the Scorpions.
Margaret’s voracious reading of detective fiction has scarcely prepared her for the reality of criminality. Her journey of self-discovery forms the heart of this remarkable novel, as she discovers in herself resourcefulness, courage, independence and the first stirrings of love.
Menczer conveys the fog and grime of Edwardian London in an espionage thriller that evokes the humdrum dinginess of spywork as it alternates with thrilling danger, in a manner characteristic of John le Carré. Margaret Trant is a heroine to remember.
An Unlikely Agent by Jane Menczer, published on 11 May, 2017 by Polygon, in paperback