The Scarlet Papers. Matthew Richardson

A proper espionage book in the style of writers such as DeMille and Ludlum.

Like all of the best books that have a historical element Richardson has used factual events, and some strong rumours to weave a brilliant fictional tale.

The Cold War is over but the British Secret Services still feel the humiliation of the Cambridge Five. There have been rumours for decades that there was at least one other double agent working for the Russians.

So when the legendary Spy Master Scarlet Queen contacts Max Archer with information on the “6th Man” he is more than intrigued.

Max is a 42 year old, History Lecturer at the London School of Economics. He’s had books published on the history of espionage and specialises in the Cold War era.

The problem is his life is in crisis. His wife just left him and got pregnant, his Professorship isn’t materialising, his publisher is chasing him for his latest book.

When Scarlett contacts him he sees it first as the way to improve his life. Then he realises that to write and publish the book would be breaking the National Secrets Act and has a wobble about writing it.

At first Scarlett drips him information.

He demands more.

The Secret Services are aware of what’s happening and are in turmoils about if to stop the book being written, and if so how they are going to stop it.

A great read based in the modern day but with throwbacks to Scarlett’s career.

Twists and turns are scattered chapter by chapter. Spies, double and triple agents, duplicity, moralistic quandaries all add to the fascination of this story.

Publisher: Penguin. Publishing Date: 25th May 2023