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Bookmarks Issue: 
53-July-Aug-2011
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0

missing imagePrevious spy novels by British author Charles Cumming include The Spanish Game (2008) and Typhoon (2009).

The Story: Among the most successful spy rings of all time was the "Cambridge Five," a group of British students recruited by the USSR in the 1930s who eventually advanced to positions from which they could feed intelligence to the Soviets. The Trinity Six supposes there was another member of the group (which has already been proposed by many a conspiracy theorist) and builds its plot around a 21st-century attempt to unmask him. Given that the Cold War ended two decades ago, it only makes sense that the hero is a historian, Sam Gaddis. But the threats to Gaddis and those near to him are very much alive as he takes on the intrigues of both modern British intelligence and a thinly veiled fictionalization of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
St. Martin's Press. 368 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 9780312675295

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The novel's ingenious plot is almost as complicated as real life, but as one astonishing revelation follows another, the book is all but impossible to put aside. ... With this novel, Cumming joins Alan Furst, David Ignatius and Olen Steinhauer among the most skillful current spy novelists, and he bears comparison with masters such as John le Carre and Graham Greene." Patrick Anderson

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Part of what elevates this book is Cumming's writing skill, outside of his ability to fill gaps. ... This is a thriller at its best, believable and escapist." Kristin Thiel

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Cumming is a wonderful storyteller who makes you care about Gaddis' fate. ... The Cold War is over, but in The Trinity Six it's hotter than ever." Carol Memmott

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Add scenes set in Moscow, Vienna, Berlin and Budapest, substitute Putin's Russia for Stalin's, and you have the makings of a lively thriller. ... [T]he narrative thread slackens somewhat as Cumming piles improbability upon improbability. The big secret that Platov is so desperate to hide is far too obvious." Jacob Heilbrunn

Critical Summary

Charles Cumming has been praised as one of the best of the new generation of British spy novelists, and critics generally felt that The Trinity Six confirmed that assessment. Though he returns readers to the familiar territory of the Cold War, reviewers argued that he has enlivened a familiar plot with excellent characterizations and writing and a few 21st-century twists. Though they disagreed on whether The Trinity Six matched works by masters like John le Carré or even equaled previous books like The Spanish Game, they concurred that his latest book is much more finely crafted than the average espionage novel.