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Wednesday 1 March 2023

‘Duty Calls’ by Thomas Waugh

Published by Sharpe Books,
25 January 2023.
ISBN: 979-837349136-5 (PB)

Set in London in 2021, Duty Calls recounts the tale of a successful spy novelist, Daniel Ambler, who allows himself to be persuaded to do some real-life undercover work for MI6.  He agrees to go to Cuba and collect a disc containing critically important information from an old Russian friend who has told British Intelligence that Daniel is the only person to whom he will give the disc. Feeling guilty about his own slightly immoral lifestyle – he is a lapsed catholic whose wife has divorced him for adultery - Daniel believes that if he performs this act of selfless duty, he will be making a worthwhile contribution to the good of society. He also hopes it might help to redeem his soul and encourage his ex-wife, Sara, whom he still loves, to take him back.

Not convinced by MI6 assurances that he will be helped and protected during his time in Cuba, Daniel enlists the help of ex-soldier, James Marshall. James, plus gun, follows Daniel when he goes to meet the Russian. This was a good move.  The protocol described by MI6 went completely off-piste. Surrounded by three gun-slinging Russian hooligans intent on torturing him before they killed him, Daniel needed all the help he could get.

Whilst Duty Calls undoubtedly has serious content about our relationship with Putin’s Russia, the overall tone of the book is quite light-hearted. Ambler views nearly everybody he meets, be they would-be-writers, those associated with the publishing industry, MI6 desk men, or just those he observes in the drinking holes he frequents, with a satirical eye.  His literary agent, his ex-wife and James Marshall are just about the only people who escape his wry humour.  A short book that would make a good companion for travellers, Duty Calls is an easy and entertaining read with an unpredictable ending.

Reviewer: Angela Crowther.

Thomas Waugh is Concordia University Research Chair in Sexual Representation and in Documentary in Montreal, Canada. In addition to writing, he loves teaching, programming, swimming, cycling, travelling in India and sweating at Montreal's ninety-year-old community steambath.


Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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