Spy Hunter (The Irregular)

Written by H. B. Lyle
Review by Edward James

Spy Hunter is the fourth in Lyle’s Irregular series, featuring ‘Wiggins’, super-agent of the newly formed British Secret Service in the early years of the 20th century. Unlike his mid-century counterpart, James Bond, Wiggins is working class, leftish in his political sympathies and totally correct in his attitude to women. He is nonetheless just as resourceful, ruthless and indestructible.

The series mixes real historical figures, such as Vernon Kell, Winston Churchill and Mata Hari, with creations of Lyle’s imagination, Wiggins et. Al., and creatures of other authors’ imagining, notably Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. The book begins with the murder of Sherlock Holmes – now long retired, of course – and Wiggins sets out to avenge his death. At the same time, he is commissioned to unmask the German spy network in Britain before war is declared in 1914.

This is a fast-moving thriller full of unlikely one-to-one combats, on the roof of a train, in the cockpit of an aircraft and deep in the London sewers. On balance I prefer James Bond as a hero because he is so outrageous, while Wiggins is too politically correct even for our own time. Even so, if you like action-packed, far-fetched spy thrillers, this is one of the best.