Alan Judd

Queen & Country

"A frightening and compelling beautifully written novel."


In the peaceful towns and villages of England, Cleaner Bob is washing windows, and people are dying in sudden and unexpected circumstances. When it becomes clear that the victims have a common history as Russian defectors, foul play is suspected and a hunt begins to locate their assailant, the lethal poison that killed them, and the mole who is leaking their locations.

In a race against time, only one man has the connections and experience to crack the case before more people perish. Charles Thorough good, former head of MI6, is enjoying retirement in the Oxfordshire hamlet he calls home when the call comes in. A man of duty, he agrees to take part in a mission that will lead him into the heart of enemy territory and threaten to undermine the very values he holds most dear.

Tense, engrossing and terrifyingly believable, the latest Charles Thorough good novel is a timely and brilliant reminder that Alan Judd is a master of the spy thriller and a writer of the very highest quality.

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The thing about highlighting an espionage book like ‘Queen and Country’ is trying to write a review without giving anything away. It is a minefield, not the kind of explosive ones, but Judd’s novel is full of subtleties that one worries about giving anything away.

Judd uses the events of the Salisbury poisonings as the basis for his tale. Someone is leaking details of Russian defectors and they are being killed by a new chemical, more effective than Novichok. Thoroughgood is brought back in to the fold to investigate this spate of killings. I loved Throughgood who is unassuming, but also a man who should not be dismissed lightly. He sees everything and understands more than some give him credit.

With the help of Sonia and Tickeye, this triumvirate slowly peels away the layers to find the truth. This is a slim novel compared to others, but there is not a word wasted, not a sentence that is superfluous. Judd delivers his story with the modicum of economy and it is all the punchier for that. I greatly enjoyed Tickeye, who felt like a form of Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, a man who is comfortable dispatching those he feels are in his way. There feels a moral backbone to Judd’s story, this isn’t about the good and the bad, but about those who vibrate between the two. As with all great espionage novels, you never really know who to trust. ‘Queen and Country’ is a novel that makes you turn those pages, however, at the end makes you think about the uncertain world we live in today. A frightening and compelling beautifully written novel.

Reviewed By:

Chris Simmons