he constructs a compelling page-turner of a plot, threaded with wry and sometime piercing social observation of the many ways the world has changed over the last quarter century, not least because of the internet revolution through which we have lived. And in the end, the human story of Jerry and Millicent’s journey away from the worlds in which they had been trapped, and of the connection between them that helps them to make their escape, has an almost fairy-tale quality that is difficult to resist; as the aged crone sweeps the young hero away on a terrifying journey, only to find herself transformed into a kind of fairy godmother, opening gateways to a world of freedom and creativity of which our hero could previously only have dreamed.
This, then, is a conspiracy thriller, but with a mismatched pair of cinephiles as protagonists instead of the usual journalist or spook. And it works a treat, with jokes never far away even when the odd duo are in peril, sharply drawn supporting characters and evocative 1990s flashbacks. It’s perhaps 50 pages too long; the other M Spark, to whom the spiky heroine’s name pays homage, would probably have said 150.