For those of us born in the Sixties (and other decades, but I know nothing of that), the Cold War was our reality. Us and them, staring at each other across clearly-defined geographical and ideological barriers. Exposure flings us right back to the dawn of the black and white Sixties with all its clear cut certainties. We start with the moles buried deep within the Admiralty. Julian Clowde is the spider at the centre of the web. Giles Holloway is a brilliant linguist; he is also a drunk. Both are Cambridge men, old enough to have been caught up in the extreme idealism of the inter-war period and now both are deeply enmeshed in spying for the Soviets. So far, so spy ……. we are firmly in the world of Le Carre and the Circus, Burgess and Maclean cannot be far away and then it all changes.
Enter Paul Callington and his family. Paul also works for the Admiralty, he plods and does his job with patriotic correctness. Lily is his wife and they have three young children. Making ends meet on his junior civil service salary is a stretch. Now that all the children are at school she teaches French part-time at a private North London girls school. So far, so suburban ….. trains rattle by, he commutes every day and then it all changes.
Giles takes a document home to copy with his tiny spy issue camera but he meets with an accident and asks Paul to collect said document and place it back on Julian’s desk. Many things happen but without giving away the plot ……. Paul ends up in prison accused of spying. Stability is everything to Lily, as a young child she and her family fled Germany along with many other Jews. Insinuation and whispers have always been part of Lily’s life. Everything looks set to turn out badly for the Callingtons; the Establishment need a conviction and the real spies need to avoid being caught and so both are conspiring to keep Paul behind bars. Somewhere in the background is Paul’s rich but dysfunctional family, I confess to not being sure why his family featured so highly in the book as they never seem to move the plot forward.
The book ends with all the strands tied neatly in a bow. I confess that I do like a nice bow at the end of a book. The tying of the bow was done with great aplomb, it is a long time since urgency of wanting to know what happens has kept me reading until the wee small hours. EXPOSURE is wonderfully atmospheric, so much so that I think that I would like to buy Giles’ flat, and an expertly told tale of everyday spying folk.
DISCLAIMER: I was sent a PRC by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Published by Fourth Estate
Paperback £8.99, Kindle £1.99
EXPOSURE was one of my TOP TEN BOOKS 2016 to see the whole list click here