Friends and Traitors

Written by John Lawton
Review by Susan McDuffie

Scotland Yard’s Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy has known Guy Burgess since the mid-1930s. Burgess, a product of Cambridge and a Russian double agent, has intermittent contact with Troy through the years leading to his defection to the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. In 1958, Troy, on a family vacation in Vienna, is approached by Burgess, who tells Troy “I want to go home.” But things are not that simple.

This book, one of a number of Inspector Troy novels, follows Troy and Burgess over twenty years, from 1935 to 1958. In the process we meet many people in Troy’s world, and the book references events in other Troy novels. Lawton has constructed an intricate world, with many real people interwoven into the fictional population. Enough backstory is given for the reader to get a rough gist of other threads in the plot, recurring characters, and references to past events, although I did feel that reading the other Troy novels would have enriched my understanding of this one, and of the complex characters Lawton portrays.

Guy Burgess is an historical person, and this novel is grounded in fact. This well-plotted and well-written book kept me intrigued; Troy’s world rings true. I enjoyed every page of this trip back to the height of the Cold War, and recommend that lovers of spy fiction and Cold War thrillers give Frederick Troy a try. Recommended.