Edith and Kim by Charlotte Philby [7/10]

Imagine the granddaughter of Kim Philby, the “Third Man” spy, novelizing the life of the woman who first introduced him to his Soviet handler. This sounds like a publishing beat-up, but no, it’s real, and the end result is a thoroughly engrossing, low-key spy thriller-cum-drama that hews close to real life. “Edith and Kim” is a tightly plotted, stylistically elegant account of Edith Tudor-Hart, small-time Soviet pawn with a huge historical impact, also a harried mother and anxious soul. A claustrophobic narrative of Edith’s days before and after the war, interrupted by imaginary letters from Kim in Soviet exile, the novel seeps with danger and dread, even though little violence takes place onstage. Unlike anything I have read before, Edith and Kim provided me with a novelist’s evocative glimpse into that hallowed espionage era. Recommended.

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