There is a current fascination with spy stories, particularly when spy fact is written in the style of spy fiction. It seems that this enthusiasm is not bound by originality; indeed, many of the recent books are not especially novel, but are written in such an engaging fashion that they feel new.
Bridge of Spies continues the tradition espoused by such a luminary as Ben Macintyre. It is not a new story, but it contains enough recently declassified information and interviews to make it novel.
Whittell’s book certainly has the ingredients for a spy film: a crashed spy plane, a daring pilot shot down over enemy territory, a Soviet spy who is the master of disguise, and a doctor who is the victim of mistaken identity. It is so fantastic that you could not make it up.
The book revolves around the intertwined fates of these three characters. The climax on Berlin’s Glienicke Bridge, where they are exchanged, is pure Hollywood.
The book is well researched, enthusiastically and dramatically written, and a joy to read. Roll on the inevitable dramatisation.
Dr Michael S Goodman, department of war studies, King’s College London