Returning in the small hours from a party, Isobel, a journalist on Gabriela’s local newspaper, witnesses a disturbing incident on Hampstead Heath and becomes the target of terrifying anonymous threats.
Charlotte Philby is the granddaughter of the double agent Kim Philby, and her pacy thriller is a persuasive account of the terrible cost of living a double life.
As the narratives progress, Philby, who is the granddaughter of real life spy Kim Philby, struggles to maintain momentum, and Gabriela’s story seems improbable, even for a character who conveniently inherits a house next to Hampstead Heath. There are some neat twists in the final act, but the novel feels oddly out of step with the realities of work, the city and technology.
Philby, granddaughter of the notorious double agent Kim Philby, explores why a woman might find herself living two lives: Gabriela is gloriously dislikable, and easy to judge, but she is also terribly compelling, and her downwards spiral towards disaster is persuasive and absorbing.
Given her family background — she is the granddaughter of the KGB agent Kim Philby — one might expect this to be a spy novel, and there are traces of that, including smooth oligarchs, embassy parties and covert rendezvous in Moscow. But this is closer to Patricia Highsmith territory and is superbly crafted with heart-stopping twists and chills galore.