Cover image of "Double Agent," a novel about a new mole hunt at MI6

At the conclusion of Secret Service, the first novel in Tom Bradby’s new thriller series, Kate Henderson’s life lay shattered. Her loving husband, Stuart, had surfaced as an agent for the SVR, the KGB’s successor, and defected to Moscow. Now, in the opening of the sequel, Double Agent, Kate’s career in the uppermost ranks of MI6 lies in the balance. As does the fate of Britain itself, following the election as Prime Minister of James Ryan. Because the agency is convinced Ryan, too, is a Russian spy. And now the former director of the SVR offers to defect with conclusive evidence that the Prime Minister is, in fact, a traitor. Which triggers an uptick in the urgency and desperation of this new mole hunt at MI6.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Rivalries in the Kremlin have broken into the open

Once again, Kate is at the center of the action. Mikhail Borodin, the son of Russia’s former intelligence chief, Igor Borodin, has approached her personally. “There has been a coup in Moscow,” he tells her. “The GRU has finally seduced the president and got what it has always wanted. Control.” Igor and his successor at the SVR are under house arrest and face possible exile to Siberia—or execution. Unsurprisingly, then, Igor wants to flee Russia for the UK, but with guarantees he can keep the billions he stole and to travel freely in Britain and the USA. And he’s prepared to pay with iron-clad proof of James Ryan’s treachery. Which means Kate must somehow convince her superiors at MI6 and a reluctant foreign minister to authorize the defection. And neither will be easy.

Double Agent (Kate Henderson #2) by Tom Bradby (2020) 368 pages ★★★★☆

Photo of SVR headquarters, seeing of this novel about a new mole hunt at MI6
Headquarters of the SVR, successor to the KGB as Russia’s foreign intelligence service. The facility, located outside Moscow, recently doubled in size. Image: American Kinetix

The mole hunt at MI6 quickly grows heated

Quarterbacking Igor Borodin’s defection in the face of official foot-dragging is only one of several crises plaguing Kate. She is frantic with worry, and having great trouble sleeping. Her two teenage children are uppermost in her mind, both of them desperately missing their father and acting out in troubling ways. And she has a new problem at work, too. Rav, her assistant and friend had lost his life searching for evidence that James Ryan is a Russian spy. Now someone outranking Kate has forced her to accept a new assistant. And Suzy Spencer, moved over from MI5, “doesn’t take prisoners.” She insists on reopening the file about the operation that revealed the circumstantial evidence of Ryan’s treachery—and Stuart’s identity as a spy. The implication is that Kate misread the signs.

To make matters worse, there are strong hints that Stuart may not have been the only Russian agent in a senior post in the government. In fact, he might not himself have been the conduit for the prime minister’s reports to Moscow. The cutout might well have been someone high up in MI6. Now even “C,” Sir Alan Brabazon, is under suspicion. No one trusts anyone else anymore. Kate certainly doesn’t.

About the author

Photo of Tom Bradby, author of this novel about a new mole hunt at MI6
Tom Bradby on the anchor desk at ITV News. Image: Press Gazette

Tom Bradby (1967-) is one of the most recognizable people in Britain. As anchor of the ITV News at Ten, he reports on the day’s events to seven million viewers nightly. Bradby has worked for the network since 1990, when he joined at age twenty-three as an editorial trainee. He has also written ten spy novels, the first of which appeared in 1998. He studied history at the University of Edinburgh. Bradby has been married since 1994. He and his wife have three children.

For related reading

Previously I reviewed Secret Service (Kate Henderson #1) by Tom Bradby (Is Britain about to elect a Russian spy as its new Prime Minister?).

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