This spy novel is a far echo of “armad!llo” and a bit disappointing insofar. Maybe Boyd thought he could do better than Le Carre´ or Joseph Kanon, but in my opinion he tried just too much. His story is partly set in the 1930ies, shortly before the US joined the war against Nazi Germany.
We readily follow young, attractive Eva Delektorskaya into the world of British espionage, where she is lead by her mentor and lover Lukas Romer. She learns all the tricks of the trade and acquires some of her own. She is posted within a complicated framework of news agencies and radio stations in the States. Her main job is to invent nasty stories about the Germans to force the reluctant US into action. On a mission in New Mexico she finds herself framed and only narrowly escapes. A colleague she has confided in is found dead in New York and Eva realizes it was Romer who framed her. She flees to Canada, then to Britain, finds a new identity and marries. From now on she leads the unspectacular life of Sally Gilmartin, housewife and mother .
So far so good. When her daughter Ruth is 28, Sally feels the urge to tell her secret life story to Ruth. But she does it in written instalments, and this is how the reader gets to know it. That´s all clumsy plotting. In between we learn about Ruth´s complicated, but rather uninteresting life as single mother and private English tutor in the 70ies, which she tells us in first person.
Obviously Boyd feels one spy story is not enough. So Ruth via her former German husband, a left-wing professor, admits a young German couple into her small flat, although she suspects they are connected to the Baader-Meinhof-group. And an Iranian student of hers seems to be followed by the Persian SAVAK. But all this comes as a mock spy story, showing how silly all this spying really is, and it is boring.
Eventually Ruth and her mum find out the whereabouts of Romer and confront him, so he commits suicide. But once a spy, always a spy, Boyd drives home his message, and we leave poor Eva-Sally with binoculars scanning her back garden. My, my...