A Single Spy (Hardcover)
"A Single Spy" by William Christie
Aleksi Ivanovich Smirnov is a very enterprising young man. The year is 1936 and the bellicose tensions of Europe are reaching a breaking point. It is a good time to be young, free, resourceful, and criminally inclined. At sixteen-years-old, Aleksi is on his own and on the run. Since he escaped from a Russian orphanage a couple of years ago, he has managed to sustain a reasonably lucrative, if perilous, lifestyle as a thief and a black marketeer. Things were going pretty well for Aleksi, he had just managed to make his escape from a crew of Persian gun-runners with his life and a nice supply of ill-gotten gain when it all comes to a crashing halt. Unbeknownst to Aleksi the Russian secret police have been keeping a discrete eye on his activities and endeavors since his escape from the orphanage. They are impressed with his language skills, his chameleon-like ability to blend into diverse cultures, and his hard-scrabble ingenuity in the face of danger. When they finally track Aleksi down and bring him in, they make him an offer, become a spy for Russia, taking on a very dangerous mission in Nazi Germany, or spend the rest of his life in the very famous and notorious Lubyanka prison. So Aleksi's training begins. He will be infiltrated into the family of a high-ranking German intelligence official, the uncle of a childhood friend whose identity Aleksi will assume.
William Christie has written a fascinating historical fiction/thriller with "A Single Spy". In this excellent work he distinguishes himself as both historian and fiction writer. Heretofore he has written several well-received and critically lauded thrillers in the past several years, one of the most notable being "The Warriors Of God" (1992) a novel which presaged the coming scourge of Islamic terrorism and the ensuing 25 years of war and resistance. Christie, a self-described "history addict who wrote only contemporary thrillers" found himself compelled to write an historical novel after discovering an account of a German plan to assassinate Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt at the Teheran Conference of 1943. The plan was ultimately defeated by the timely intervention of a Soviet intelligence officer who had infiltrated German military intelligence. He was intrigued by the possibility of how one well-placed agent, a single spy, as it were, might be able to affect the course of world history with tenacity and well-timed action.
I enjoyed "A Single Spy" for several reasons, the main one being that it is a real page-turner without devolving into the kind of relentless, non-stop action that is so common in modern suspense novels. There is a lot of psychological suspense as Aleksi balances the need to protect his cover and assure his own survival while taking the requisite actions needed to move through the ranks of German military intelligence and satisfy the demands of his Russian spymasters. That is not to say that there is not action aplenty, just that it is well-paced and considered, with the requisite character and background development to make it interesting and believable. If you enjoy the works of Alan Furst and Terry Hayes, great espionage thrillers with heart and intelligence, then you will love "A Single Spy". Mark Billingsley— Mark Billingsley
" A] panoramic, smart, hugely enjoyable thriller"--The New York Times Book Review
"A single spy--in the right place and at the right moment--may change the course of history."
Alexsi Ivanovich Smirnov, an orphan and a thief, has been living by his wits and surviving below the ever-watchful eye of the Soviet system until his luck finally runs out. In 1936, at the age of 16, Alexsi is caught by the NKVD and transported to Moscow. There, in the notorious headquarters of the secret police, he is given a choice: be trained and inserted as a spy into Nazi Germany under the identity of his best friend, the long lost nephew of a high ranking Nazi official, or disappear forever in the basement of the Lubyanka. For Alexsi, it's no choice at all.
Over the course of the next seven years, Alexsi has to live his role, that of the devoted nephew of a high Nazi official, and ultimately works for the legendary German spymaster Wilhelm Canaris as an intelligence agent in the Abwehr. All the while, acting as a double agent--reporting back to the NKVD and avoiding detection by the Gestapo. Trapped between the implacable forces of two of the most notorious dictatorships in history, and truly loyal to no one but himself, Alexsi's goal remains the same--survival.
In 1943, Alexsi is chosen by the Gestapo to spearhead one of the most desperate operations of the war--to infiltrate the site of the upcoming Tehran conference between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, and set them up to be assassinated. For Alexsi, it's the moment of truth; for the rest of the world, the future is at stake.
About the Author
WILLIAM CHRISTIE is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a former Marine Corps infantry officer who commanded a number of units and served around the world. In addition to A Single Spy, he has written several other novels, published either under his own name or that of F.J. Chase.