cover image The Spanish Game

The Spanish Game

Charles Cumming, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (338pp) ISBN 978-0-312-36639-1

Alec Milius, the protagonist of Cumming's well-received first novel, A Spy by Nature (2007), has created a new life in Madrid working as a researcher for a British private bank in this sterling sequel. His former employer, MI6, dismissed him in disgrace after a plot against the CIA went wrong. Alec lives alone, constantly watching for agents from his past who he thinks are intent on hunting him down and exacting revenge. He's having an affair with his boss's wife, drinks too much and is consumed by regret and guilt. When his boss, Julian Church, sends him to Basque country on a project, he meets Mikel Arenaza, a former member of the ETA, the Basque separatist party, who quickly turns up dead. The plot is pleasingly convoluted, the twists unexpected, the characters flawed and interesting. This is spy fiction of the highest order; Cumming deserves to be ranked with the best of the genre's practitioners. (Nov.)