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Books Editorial

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Kate Atkinson, Transworld

Kate Atkinson seems incapable of writing a bad sentence, never mind a bad novel, and she’s on fine form with her latest in which she covers some of the same ground that Anthony Quinn did in his recent, and very good, ‘Our Friends in Berlin’. She flip-flops the action between the 1940s, when an eighteen-year-old Juliet Armstrong is recruited by a branch of MI5, and the 1950s with Juliet now working for the ‘Schools’ department in the BBC. During the war one of her colleagues poses as a Nazi agent to gather information from fifth columnists, and she is tasked with transcribing the words of their conversations. Soon however she is asked to step up her duties and adopt a new persona. In the 1950s meanwhile, a figure from her spying days unexpectedly returns and she is once more cast into an arena where skulduggery holds sway. It’s a riveting tale, sparking with wit and invention, and Atkinson neatly evokes the mid-twentieth century milieu with her customary skill and attention to detail.