x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Book review: James Hayward's spy novel hampered by puns

James Hayward's Double Agent Snow is a true account of the life of Second World War spy Arthur Owens.

Double Agent Snow by James Hayward
Double Agent Snow by James Hayward

Double Agent Snow
James Hayward
Simon & Schuster

The author and historian James Hayward presents the true account of Arthur Owens, code-named "Snow", a prolific double agent recruited by MI5 during the Second World War. Notorious for his tendency to switch sides, Owens' fast tongue both made and cost a few deals with the Germans, placing him in the position of being one of Britain's most valuable defence assets as well as their biggest liability.

Most of Owens' early life is spent in Wales' hilly countryside and then as a salesman before his chance meeting with George Hamilton. A wealthy investment banker, it is Hamilton who introduces Owens to the spy game, its promises of a fast life with fast money instantly appealing to the latter. Five years and two increasingly suspicious handlers later, Owens teeters precariously between enemy lines with the results of his double-crossing leaving his comfortable life inching dangerously close to an end via a hangman's noose.

While Double Agent Snow hardly lacks for interesting content, its substance is hampered by harried pacing and Hayward's attempts at pun-filled descriptions that often fall flat. It's a must-read only for the diehard espionage fan.