Review published on July 30, 2015.
When I sent for this book to review, I mistakenly thought it might be a poetry book, but it is a novel about the lives of several people from 1900 until the 1960s, and in detail the story of spying, betrayal, the legal profession, and love, for country, and love for people, and individuals. It is not the sort of book I normally would choose to read, but I am glad I persevered, and learnt a lot abou the Cambridge University spy-ring, the legal profession, and how easy it is to justify betraying your country and your countrymen.
This is the third novel about Ben Schroeder, a youngish Jewish member of legal chambers and the books can be read independently of each other. This one is about an American academic, Francis Hollander accusing Sir James Digby QC of being a Soviet spy. Trying to salvage his reputation, Digby turns to Ben to sue Hollander for libel. However what, at first, seems like a straightforward case, soon escalates into something far more complex and very dangerous.
Evidence begins to emerge of Digby’s associations with the Cambridge spies, (including Kim Philby, Sir Anthony Blunt, and Burgess and Maclean), then MI6 and the Home Secretary get involved, which all makes for a very complex and complicated legal process. And whilst all this is going on, Ben has become involved with a female solicitor from another chambers, which the fuddy-duddy legal profession frowns on, as it could be seen as touting for work!
To be able to gain vital information to help his client, Ben must put into action, a very risky set of circumstances that could cost him his job, his standing in the legal profession, and put several people in danger. However his senior colleagues at his Chambers are willing to place their trust in him, and the Home Secretary is willing to put in place actions to help him. All of this is set against the world of chess tournaments, and the Russian supremacy of training chess Grandmasters, and also helping to sort out a virtually uncrackable code in chess moves, to give away both Russian and British secrets at chess tournaments all over the world.
In the end common sense, and another, inevitable defection, result, and Ben and his girlfriend are able to continue their relationship, without any inteference.
This book is not an “easy” read, because it moves backwards and forwards in time, and I didn’t know much about spying, chess, or the legal worlds. But it was a worthwhile read, and would be enjoyed by those who are interested in books about any, or all of these worlds.
Sue Goult, Loughborough
Personal read 5 stars
Reading group read 4 stars
And is there honey still for tea? by Peter Murphy is published in pbk by No Exit Press on April 23, 2015