cover image A Spy by Nature

A Spy by Nature

Charles Cumming, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (355pp) ISBN 978-0-312-36635-3

L oosely based on the author's real-life experience of having been recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in 1995, Cumming's supremely intelligent and utterly readable debut will delight fans of such British masters of spy fiction as John le Carré, Robert Ludlum and Len Deighton. Alec Milius, a 24-year-old marketing consultant for a tiny London company that solicits business people in central and eastern Europe to advertise in a dubious publication called Central European Business Review , welcomes the chance to join the SIS, which after an exhausting selection process places him as a support agent with a British oil company. Alec initially thrives in his new job, but as he becomes increasingly entangled in his mission, he begins to face unexpected dangers as well as the loss of his identity. Smartly paced and intricately plotted, Cumming's decidedly unglamorous look at industrial espionage provides plenty of elaborate deceits, double crosses and other trappings of a first-class spy thriller. (July)