Classic espionage literature

I like to read with a virgin mind. I do not read book reviews if I can avoid it, none, ever. I try to avoid blurb too. I don’t write any either (sorry to all those fellow writers who asked). Occasionally I will come across a review when it sneaks its way in front of my eyes, as this one did. It made me want to look up the book, and I downloaded it from free, from Gutenberg. Reading it now.

“Espionage has become so sophisticated and hi-tech that it’s difficult to believe that this, the greatest of all spy stories, was published more than a century ago when agents relied on wits rather than gadgets. Set against the background of the Great Game being played between Britain and Russia on the north-west frontier after the second Afghan war, it tells the story of an 11-year-old orphan boy who looks and sounds like a native but beneath his filthy rags is white. Kim, né Kimball O’Hara, wears his Irish soldier father’s ID round his neck and survives by running errands for a wily Pashtun horse trader with an ancient Islamic proverb to suit every occasion. “Children should not see a carpet on the loom until the pattern is made plain,” he advises, his great red beard wagging solemnly. What Kim doesn’t know is that his mentor is also a “chain man” or spy for the British. Mahbub Ali’s constant travels through the subcontinent, selling horses to army officers and maharajahs, affords the perfect cover. How Kim, travelling with a holy lama in search of the sacred river, meets Colonel Creighton, who recognises his unique qualifications and talents and sends him to a mysterious spymaster to learn the secrets of espionage, is riveting. Adventures aside, Kipling’s descriptions of India, its exotic people and places, are awesome, as are Sharma’s seemingly inexhaustible collection of accents British and Indian – in Kim’s case, a subtle mixture of both. No mean feat.”

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