Book review: Washington Shadow

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Washington Shadow by Aly Monroe is published by John Murray, price £16.99.

From Francoist Spain to Washington, no-one can say author Aly Monroe's readers aren't well-travelled, if only through the pages of her novels.

The Edinburgh-based writer's first novel, The Maze of Cadiz, followed the adventures of MI6 agent Peter Cotton as he stumbled on a trail of political corruption in the repressive Franco years after the Spanish Civil War. On the back of that success comes her new publication, Washington Shadow, which is set in the disintegrating British Empire during the late 1940s.

This new volume sees Cotton leave Spain for Washington. His task is to secure a loan to aid Britain during the post-war economic depression. Instead, he gets caught up in diplomatic intrigue as he witnesses the new American intelligence services vie for power. The novel focuses on the special relationship between Britain and America and how, at times, your ally can harm you just like the enemy.

Monroe also portrays the role of women, both during the war and in the aftermath, through attractive State Department worker Katherine.

While her novels are written from the comfort of her New Town home, which she shares with her husband Neil Duffy, Monroe's settings do not rely completely on imagination, as during the 1980s she taught at the University of Cadiz.

She says: "One of the important things about Cotton is that I conceived of him as an ex-pat.

"When you have spent time out of your own country, you have this dual vision. You can see your own country as a foreigner would see it. Because Cotton is like this, he is able to have a measured, almost unemotional response to things which allows him to evaluate."