This book is a cracking political thriller. Set in 1946 blitzed London, Icelight has fast action, resilient characters and sparkling period feeling. The hero, Peter Cotton, is an intelligence officer with MI5. There are brilliant characterisations, including some very unpleasant male language, ‘sniffing dog’s bottoms’, which is distasteful, though refreshing coming from a female writer. Aly Monroe is no lady. The story is extremely well-devised, with intelligent observations on the human condition.
It is not without its faults. There are too many shady characters with similar initials, which gets difficult to follow. There is no travel, no landscape, and few women. It can be a bit heavy going with a lot of supposition and discussion between Cotton and his pompous, ruthless colleagues. Name dropping abounds. We have Simpsons in the Strand, F. D. Roosevelt, Emanuel Shinwell, Stafford Cripps, Clement Atlee and Bertrand Russell.
The book may be considered over-rich in dialogue at the expense of character and location, though it shows well how to handle three way conversation. Aly Monroe also does a lot of preaching about marriage, homosexuality and politics, dredging up the mud about former communist Tom Driberg MP, and art historian, MI5 officer, Russian spy, and Surveyor of the King’s Pictures, Anthony Blunt, who was finally debunked by Margaret Thatcher.
Nonetheless, a rattling good read.