Cover Image: Secret Service

Secret Service

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Member Reviews

It has been a long time between books for TV journalist and author Tom Bradby. His last book was the bulky historical thriller Blood Money, released in 2009. Now he is back with a very timely and convincing spy novel, Secret Service.

Kate Henderson appears to be the typical British civil servant with a quiet job, a pleasant husband, two teenagers and an Alzheimer’s stricken mother. In reality, however, she is a senior MI6 officer who is running a very sensitive operation. In response to information from a secret source, Kate infiltrates a young woman and a listening device onto a Russian oligarch’s super-yacht in Istanbul. The bug reveals the startling intelligence that the British Prime Minister has prostate cancer and that one of the leading candidates to replace him may be a Russian agent of influence. 

Kate and her superiors are initially sceptical about the intelligence, but when the PM suddenly announces his resignation for medical reasons, they find that they must sift through the possible replacements to find out which one is the Russian agent. It is a complex and very sensitive task, made infinitely more difficult by a web of complicated personal relationships and the likelihood that there is another mole, codename Viper, in one of the intelligence agencies. There is also the real possibility that they are being played by the Russians. 

As tension around the operation increases, Kate finds that her job, her marriage and maybe even her life may be at risk. 

I really enjoyed this clever espionage novel, which once again proves that the British do the intelligent, credible spy story better than anyone else. There are a couple of slow patches, but overall it moves at a good pace and when the action occurs it is quick, believable and tense. Bradby intermingles Kate’s personal and professional lives with aplomb, although close reading is required to keep the myriad personal relationships clear in your head. 

The book moves ably through some twisty turns and Bradby does a good job of keeping us guessing as to who the mole is and which one of the candidates is really the Russian agent of influence. The story is very up to date about Russian attempts to influence elections and there is a good contemporary feel to the story, although he does not explicitly address Brexit. The descriptions of London, Turkey and Greece are spot-on and quite evocative and add a further layer of credibility to the story. There is also a good cast of convincing secondary characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed Secret Service and think it is the best current spy novel I have read so far this year.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of the book to review.
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Very good. I enjoyed this thriller which is very topical at the moment. The story was fast paced and had a lot of believable detail. I really enjoyed it, and will seek out other books Tom Bradby has written.
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Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for the opportunity to give an impartial review in return for an ARC of this publication.
First boo kby Tom Bradby I have read and certainly won't be the last and will be going to search out back catalogue. Absolutely cracking spy thriller, simply didn't see the end twist, although had several potential outcomes in my head.
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Kate Henderson is a senior operative at the Russia Desk of MI6 when intelligence leads her and her team to suspect that one of the frontrunners to be the next British PM might be a Russian spy – and that he/she might be getting assistance from a mole within their own ranks … or is the Russian government just throwing false information at them, as it has done before, to stir up the Brits and interfere with the democratic process?

Kate struggles to pin down the truth whilst trying to be loving wife to her husband, mum to two teens, daughter to a mean-spirited and sometimes-demented mum, as well as a good and loyal colleague, but Tom Bradby manages to create credible and empathic characters for us to believe in without resorting either to the glib portraits that can be a byproduct of an action-based novel or, conversely, getting bogged down in existential angst.  On the contrary, he has given as a cracking story, genuine character portrayals with enough to genuinely move the reader, and plenty of suspense: we’re kept guessing until the end and in fact even the ending leaves a couple of things a bit open to question.

A fabulous spy story.  I’d not read any Tom Bradby before, but I’m definitely planning to read more by him.  I'm a bit sparse with my 5-star ratings but this definitely merits a really good 4.5 plus!
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This is the first book I've read by the TV news presenter Tom Bradby and I found it a highly entertaining and dare I say it,topical read. Kate Henderson is an MI6 officer who in the course of an operation against the Russians hears that the British Prime Minister is about to resign due to ill health and that one of the MPs likely to be in the leadership election is in the pay of the Russians and furthermore there is a mole in British Intelligence codenamed 'Viper'.
the information is originally dismissed as Russian disinformation but when the following day the PM announces he has cancer and is stepping down ,doubt creeps in as nobody was aware the PM was ill.Added to that an informant who has infiltrated a oligarchs household is found brutally murdered,evidence there is indeed a mole?
There follows a race against time as the leadership election narrows down to 2 candidates the prime suspects in the MI6 investigation.Kates difficulties are further exacerbated by the fact her husband is an advisor to one of the candidates.!
As the chase hots up.(if the russian agent wins the election the investigation has no chance of continuing) Kates assistant travels against orders to obtain proof against one of the candidates but is murdered ,his death made to look like a gay sex game gone wrong.but this eventually leads to the unmasking of the mole,Viper' but .... I wont give anymore away.
Given the apparent Russian penchant for interfering in the Democratic process of western countries it doesn't need an enormous leap of imagination to think they could take it a stage further and buy themselves a candidate and there have already been a number of highly placed Russian agents found in the upper levels of British Intelligence over the years so why not.
Quite scary really when you think about it but an great read and as the ending was left a bit up in the air hopefully Mrs Henderson will be returning for a sequel
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A really great book,loved every page.
Kate Henderson , a senior intelligence officer on the Russia desk gets a message about a secret meeting aboard a  yacht on the Mediterranean. She sets up surveillance . The team hear that the Russians have a mole called "Viper" in the British intelligence service and are about to have replace the Prime Minister  with a Russian agent .
Is this disinformation or real  frightening information?
The book runs at great pace with no one trusting anyone . Makes you wonder if something like this could really happen.
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I really enjoyed reading this book and found the plot fascinating. Definitely recommended to those who enjoy this genre.
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This book appealed to me immediately as I love anything to do with Russian moles and spies etc, the idea having always fascinated me.  The plot of this book therefore intrigued me straight away! It was quite an exhilarating read and had all the spy elements I wanted and enjoy-under cover exploits, missions, investigative trips, surveillance etc but I did feel like it sort of barrelled into it all a bit quickly at first and I struggled to figure out how was who and get a feel for these characters, which was really important given how close they were to the main character. The main character also I didn’t like! I found her cold and detached and very difficult to take to or actually care about! There were other parts of the book I felt were too quickly rattled through and then others painfully slow and not necessary.  Sadly for me I guessed the twist also quite early on so was more or less reading on to see if I was right. The ending I felt was quite rushed and all very unclear with no real explanation as to what actually happened, which was what I would have liked and was a bit disappointing. 
I did enjoy the book but it didn’t grip me or have me desperate to sit down and read it... more to just get it finished and find out if I was right!
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My Thanks to NetGalley and publishers Trans World for an ARC of this book in .return for an honest review. Tom Bradbury is not an author I’ve read before although I am familiar with his television reporting. This is an intriguing premise for a story by an author whose background means that his writing has an authentic feel. Has the idea possibly been inspired by the suggestions that  President Trump has possible connections with Russia.?  Concentration is certainly needed to follow the assorted characters and twists. At the start of the book, I wasn’t totally sure what was happening. We open on an M16 undercover operation. But all soon becomes clear. The main character is Kate, a wife and mother to two moody teenage children. But she is also head of M16’s Russian Desk, a trained killer who has to put her skills to use. Her husband asks her, “Do you think it’s possible to be the warrior you need to be and the wife and mother you want to be?” This is Kate’s dilemma as we see her flying off to deal with delicate and nasty situations that can have national implications at the same time as trying to keep a balanced and difficult domestic life on track. Added to her complicated life is the fact that there is a mole leaking information.

  The author manages the interaction of his various characters extremely well. He certainly has the connections between his heroine Kate and her mother, now in a home, spot on. We are used to thrillers ending with an adrenalin rush, all guns blazing. This time it’s bone-chillingly cold, involving just two characters. I found this a far more effective ending to this brilliant work. This book could date very rapidly, but now it’s right on the moment with many of the political issues we face today A new name added to my list of favourite authors.
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Thank you to the publishers and author for the ARC of Secret Service in return for an unbiased review.

Kate works for Six as well as being wife to a civil servant, mum to two children and daughter to an unpleasant mother with dementia (one assumes from the book that she’s always been mean, rather than the dementia making her so). Kate works on the Russian Desk and has some dynamite intelligence from a personal source she trusts, suggesting that the PM is going to resign through ill health, and that one of the candidates who will seek to replace him is working for the Russians, plus the presence of a mole close to the Russia Desk. This leads her into a web of information and misinformation, attacks, deaths, subterfuge and a real question of who, if anyone, Kate can trust.

Tom Bradby keeps the turns tight and the clues sparse, first focusing on one suspect, then another. It’s clear that neither of the candidates for PM is of blemishless character, and the author casts enough doubt on the main people in the frame as the MI6 mole to keep you guessing. I’d had my suspicions about the perpetrator, but it was certainly not blindingly obvious to me until the big reveal. The book kept the suspense going right to the end, making it very readable.

The one thing that jarred was the use of “emotionally autistic” to describe Kate.
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This is a spy story! As I plan to visit Russia shortly I was interested in the description of the book and I felt that it delivered. It is a fast moving story with violence described rather brutally but appropriately. I felt that it was possible to engage with the principal character and to hope that things worked out for her. There are some parts of the story that are personal to her and this obviously helps to develop the relationship.
There are ups and downs to the progress of the investigation - some are shocking and violent and some less so. The ending is a sudden twist which shocks while being half expected. Her devastation while managing the situation is clear.
I recommend the book.
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I had no idea that Tom Bradby is such a prolific writer. He is my favourite ITV news anchorman (no flannel Tom - it's a fact) and I jumped at the opportunity to read an ARC of Secret Service when offered by the publisher Random House UK, Transworld and NetGalley. Thank you! So, I was rather taken aback to learn that this is Tom's seventh novel; I thought it was his first! 

Stand aside John Le Carré - Tom Bradby has nailed it! Secret Service crackles with tension. Puts you right inside MI6 and the machinations of government. This is 'Spooks' on steroids. When the current Prime Minister suddenly announces that he is resigning owing to ill-health, the possible candidates to succeed him bare their teeth. Foreign Secretary James Ryan and Imogen Conrad at Education are the front runners. Intelligence at MI6 has identified that one candidate might be a Russian spy and a mole known as Viper is suspected to be amongst their own ranks.

Kate Henderson is a senior operative at the Russia Desk; her boss, Ian Granger, is head of Europe and Russia; 'C', the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, is Sir Alan Brabazon. Kate works with Rav and Julie and is married to Stuart, who happens to be the private secretary of Imogen Conrad. Could anyone of them be Viper? The race is on in a deadly game of smoke and mirrors as Kate and her crew travel to Istanbul and Greece, coerce a young Serbian, Lena Savic to work as a clandestine nanny for a high ranking oligarch family - all to try and identify who might be the spy and who is Viper. And like the best plans so much goes horribly wrong. This is real, this is clear and present danger. Heady stuff that rattles along at breakneck speed. The last twenty minutes of Secret Service had me reeling, at one moment shouting out: "OH **** NO! Completely blindsided! Never saw it coming!

This is one of the best spy stories I have ever read. Superb characterisation and an all too realistic plot. Brilliant! An unequivocal 5 STARS from me!
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A real page turner - I simply didn't want to put it down. The story is the life of an MI6 officer who is involved in one of the most delicate and important assignments of her life. Who gave the tip-off in the first place? Who is the tip-off referring to and most of all who is the insider giving away all of her movements. I loved it from the first. The pace is brilliant. I did wonder though that I needed so much detail of hanging about on stake out - cooking, going shopping etc but I passed over that wanting to see who the Russian spy was. In the end it was suggested by not admitted but I was disappointed with the finale. There were a few too many clues that made the denouement flat. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed it and will read more of his books now.
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I flew through this book in no time at all. Kate, an MI6 operative has been contacted by an old acquaintance to suggest that the British PM is about to resign and that one of his possible successors is spying for the Russians. Moreover there is a mole within the service. Sure enough not long after the PM resigns due to ill health and the race is on to find out who the mole is and which of the three candidates is the Russian spy. The setting is bang up to date with references to the Salisbury poisonings and Russian interference in our democracy but with thankfully no reference to Brexit. 

This was a very enjoyable read. Quite easy to follow for a spy thriller and with a believable, likeable protagonist in Kate. I've never read any of Bradby's work before but would love to see a series based on Kate's character.. The only downside is that the ending was a bit unresolved for me. I would have liked to have known more but perhaps that means there will be a sequel! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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A brilliant fast-paced spy book.  Kate, a senior operative in MI6, receives information from a Russian college friend that there is a mole in MI6 and an agent in a high government position.  The Prime Minister resigns through ill-health so Kate has to find out which of the candidates to replace him is a spy, without being able to trust her colleagues in MI6. 

The book zips along at a fast pace with the reader not knowing who are the  Russian agents or if Kate's source is playing her or even if Kate is the mole.
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While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I do think the author could have furnished us with a bit more background on the characters and there were an awful lot of people to remember and their positions in government and MI5 and MI6. I’m afraid I did get a bit muddled from time to time especially with the Russians and their politics. 

I think maybe, it’s an excellent book for a man to read or anyone au fait with the political systems of these countries. I think perhaps I’m a not quite so well versed, and I did get a bit lost along the way. 

Having said that it was a gripping and enjoyable read.  I found it absolutely fascinating, as anything to do with politics, you’d never really know who was telling the truth, as they are all such accomplished liars, and these people rule over us.  

There are a lot of red herrings, and although I had my suspicions, I was never sure who was who!  As the book reached its climax, I discovered I was right all along, despite thinking it couldn’t be so.  What a cracker of a book, makes a change from murders all the time.  

My thanks to the author and netgalley for the ARC.
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I'm not sure why Tom Bradby as a best selling author has passed me by as I was very aware of him as a political editor (2005-2015) and of course as ITV news frontman. As I've also worked in Westminster and love politics generally (well apart from Brexit!) I picked this latest from him with enthusiasm.
There is no doubting Bradby's ability to quickly build a plot with loads of suspense and a cast of characters in what is a spy thriller that could easily make us think anyone is guilty.
Kate Henderson works as an intelligence officer on the Russia desk for MI6 Working on information she heads to Istanbul with her team to observe the son of Russian oligarch Igor Borodin and also recruit a young Serbian woman - Lena- to spy as a nanny to the family on their yacht Empress, promising to bring Lena's sister back to safety in the UK. Whilst observing the family three notable Russians involved in their intelligence (SVR) also arrive and listening to the planted microphone they hear about the British Prime Minister being terminally ill and their plan to use their spy within the    political candidates lined up to take over to push their influence - just like of course they did with Trump in the US Elections.....
Plots involving dodgy politicians and particularly using their sexual desires and the murderous intent of Russian agents to kill on British soil are of course for us and the media somewhat familiar over the past few years and Bradby uses his considerable inside knowledge of the mechanisms of power in Westminster to add authenticity to the plot.  There are many twists as Kate tries to uncover who is really the mole within not just government but in her own intelligence service giving information to our revived Cold War enemy the Russians.  She can't even leave out her own husband Stuart who is working for one of the candidates stepping forward to be Leader.
It is fast paced, intriguing but my only criticism would be Bradby's need to try and weirdly over feminise Kate against the tough manly world in which she works.  I partly liked it because of her ability to deal emotively with her colleagues - when needed-  but then couldn't picture her breaking her cover and killing when under threat. Perhaps it was to show the weakness in her personality that of course is a complete no-no with a spy and just as James Bond succumbs to the charms of many beautiful women and ends up looking good and well turned out maybe Bradby's female alternative 007 should be given some slack and allowed to question her role as a bad mother with teenage kids yet dress to kill when the occasion arises. Great fun!
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A cracker of a spy tale, with all the elements you'd hope for in a book of this genre. It's also active, well constructed and has realistic dialogue.

Kate is head of the Russia Desk in SIS (MI6) and takes a very hands-on approach, recruiting assets and getting involved with surveillance. She is also a wife and mother to two teenagers so to say she struggles with work-life balance would be an understatement. Kate recruits an illegal immigrant to work as a nanny on board a Russian oligarch's super-yacht, and plant a microphone. They overhear that the British Prime Minister is about to step down due to ill health and there are plans to ensure that a Russian asset takes his place. There is also mention of a spy known as Viper. 

The rest of the book revolves around trying to work out both who Viper is and which of the contenders for the leadership election has been compromised by the Russians. Needless to say, there are thrilling chases, shoot-outs, red herrings and plenty of mis-direction.

The author has cleverly managed to avoid saying which political party is in power, and to largely avoid the Brexit issue - but not entirely - "a golden future awaits us as a proud, independent, free-trading nation, developing new and exciting relationships with countries across the globe" says one of the leadership contenders in a speech!

The book is completely up-to-date with its theme of Russian interference in the democratic process. However, none of the UK politicians or senior civil servants come out well as they all have metaphorical skeletons in their cupboards. If the country is really run by people like these, and it probably is, then we're in big trouble.
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Really enjoyed this book, was a huge roller coaster of a ride, taking you from Vauxhall Bridge Station to Mykonos, and a few other places before and after.

This is a really well-written, deftly weaved together story that begins with Kate who is trying to get an asset to bug a yacht which is owned by a Russian, after she has received a tip-off suggesting the British Prime Minister is to step down and the person most likely to replace him is a Russian puppet.

A great list of characters, not too many that you get so bogged down trying to remember who is who.

One thing I was a little disappointed that after being well-paced, the book seemed to rush at the end (and yes I did guess who 'Viper' was) and there was no 'mop up' , which after all that had happened, I felt sure would have happened.

Nevertheless, was a very good read and highly recommended
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I found myself stealing away minutes of time here and there in order to read this book. I wanted to know.....! Well written and easy to follow with an agreeably small cast of characters so that one didn't have to keep looking back to remember who was who. I enjoyed the way that the main character, Kate, had a family and a near enough normal life alongside her work for MI6. The story line is bang up to date including references we can relate to post 2018. I can see this being made into an excellent British film or TV series. Definitely recommended!
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