Early reviews of ‘The Wayward Spy’ are unequivocally enthusiastic. A rave review comes from the publishing industry’s specialty magazine Clarion in which staff reviewer Lisa Bower awards the novel five stars ***** out of five*****.
‘The descriptions and details in the novel are sharp as daggers. The short, yet fully realized scenes create a brisk pace, no character quite acts the way the reader might think and the plot is full of winding curves.’
‘Croft masterfully includes contemporary geo-political intrigue into his fiction. Readers would be hard-pressed to find another novelist who can so ably describe the political relationships between Syria, Russia, England and the U.S….’
‘The plot’s as byzantine as some of Le Carre’s best spy novels…and at times the reader thinks he’s back in the quirky landscape of Javier Marias’ MI6 trilogy…….. A must read for any spy novel buffs, particularly Len Deighton fans.’
-JF Jay from Canada (on Amazon)
‘A masterwork of its genre… The story zigzags from country to country and from personal conviction—and Vaux’s allegiance is tested to the limits of his endurance. There is also a comic turn by an aging female hack that is pure genius! And of course a love interest with a twist that will astound.’
-McCrum (on Amazon.co.uk)
This is an espionage thriller that successfully conflates the serpentine plots of a John Le Carre spy novel with Len Deighton’s dollops of suspense and irreverence—skillfully tempered by Graham Greene’s ever- present ‘human factor.’
Portland Book Review
‘The Wayward Spy’ by Roger Croft is not your James Bond type of spy thriller. He is more the John Le C Carre-type writer with a heavy mix of Graham Greene. International intrigue, twisted plots and spy craft all make for an interesting read.
The British Secret Service wants to block an international arms deal being brokered by Ahmed Abdul Kadri. Our hero, Michael Vaux, (“pronounced Veau as in French for veal”) returns to England after a long stint in the U.S. and Canada with the hpes of buying a home and settling in for a well-deserved retirement. Michael offers a bid on a house and no matter how much he offers , someone offers a hight price. The need for additional money is what leads him into the waiting arms of the Secret Intelligence Service (also known as SIS, or MI6). Eventually the price of the home more than doubles .
In Part 2, Vaux agrees to help the SIS and soon finds out that his former college friend, Ahmed Kdri,poses as a high-level emissary in the world of Middle East politics but is in fact an arms dealer. The game changes when Kadri tells Michael that “only when the Arab side is strong enough to pose a real military threat to their existence will the Israelis come to the table and negotiate seriously.” Here is where the story really tgakes off with the plot moving from Geneva to Morocco and eventually to Egypt. The last two-thirds of the book are a very good read. Michael Vaux is a very likeable character that readers are pulling for from the start– and there is just enough humor to keep this book a fun read.
San Francisco Book Review/ Sacramento Book Review
Journalist Michael Vaux is all set to retire in England after decades of living abroad. He has his dream home all picked out, right across the street from his boyhood home complete with a stunning view of unspoiled fields in the back. However, the fates seem to be against him, and his real estate agent informs him that he is in a bidding war for his dream house.
As the price goes up and Vaux worries if his nest egg will be enough, he is given a unique opportunity to serve his country. MI6, the CIA of the United Kingdom, makes him an offer he can’t refuse, thanks to the promise of easy money. Vaux is supposed to get back in touch with an old college friend to find out the details of an arms deal between Russia and Syria while he attends a peace conference in Geneva.
Should be easy, right? Go on all-expenses-paid trip to Geneva, chat up an old friend, somehow sneak a peek at an agreement that portends to disrupt peace in the Middle East, and, oh yeah, don’t get caught. How many of us have wondered if we have what it takes to become a spy?
Vaux learns that being a spy is a lot more complicated than we all thought. First off, there’s the whole cover identity thing, then there is the ethical dilemma of friendship, the never really being sure where your loyalty lies, and don’t forget the women who fall into your bed.
Croft has developed a complex plot to surround a man that just sort of stumbles into being a spy. Vaux is your everyday man, thinking about his life slowing down and fulfilling the dreams that many of us have of our retirement, then suddenly life careens out of control in ways that he could never have imagined. It all seems a bit surreal to Vaux until he finds himself being held hostage in the Russian embassy and being sent off to Morocco.
Set in the early-1990s, The Wayward Spy takes the best of spy novels from the likes of Le Carre and kicks it up a notch. You can’t help but see yourself in Vaux, like him, or laugh at the foibles that being a spy entails, and you surely won’t want to miss the end of his adventures. Wayward this spy might be, but I found that I couldn’t put the book down.
The Publishing Guru, February 2011
Roger Croft’s tale of espionage, The Wayward Spy, follows the life of Michael Vaux, a veteran journalist on the brink of mulling over an early retirement. Vaux intends to use his retirement package to purchase a house across the street from his childhood home. Before he can retire, however, the British Secret Intelligence Service, M16, is interested in his services. The result is a bidding war as MI6 hopes the allure of the home can be enough to entice Michael Vaux to go on one last top-secret mission. Vaux is essentially asked to trace Ahmed Kadri, a friend from Vaux’s college days at Bristol University.
At the heart of this espionage storyline is the brewing nuclear arms build-up that could disrupt the balance of power in the Mideast—thereby potentially escalating tension between neighboring countries. More specifically, the British Intelligence Service has learned that Syria is preparing to complete a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Russia—and Kadri is Syria’s chief arms negotiator.
The Wayward Spy is a back and forth story that will have the reader devouring this unfolding mystery. On one hand, it appears as though Michael Vaux is cooperating with M16 and the British to obtain important information from Kadri and Syria; however, as the story develops, the reader may not conclude with certainty, whether Vaux is helping the British or is on Kadri’s side.
The pace of the story picks up considerably during the Mideast Peace Conference, where Vaux is sent as Mr. Derek Westropp. This is not surprising because “if the essence of espionage is deception, then the ability to act will give the professional spy a big career advantage.”
Roger Croft expertly develops the plot and reveals the mystery and deception in small portions, creating an insatiable craving for the reader. Ultimately, the book involves the Syrian regime, the CIA, and the U.K.’s M16, and culminates with a roller coaster finish in Morocco. Read on to find out who is deceiving who—en route to a startling and unexpected finish. Roger Croft’s The Wayward Spy is thoroughly entertaining and a must read for anyone who appreciates a thrilling mystery.
As other reviewers have noted, this book does remind one of the early Le Carre novels and also of Graham Greene. Croft’s book is cynical and bleak, but also thought provoking. If it was a movie, it would be filmed–as was “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”–in black and white, and would feature rainy streets and alcohol-sodden characters with their collars turned up. The difference might be that a few rare scenes with close friends could be shot in technicolor.
The prose is intricate and deeply textured, and somehow the author managed this without losing my interest in trying to follow the plot. For example, in a minor scene, the main character, about to be sent out on a problematic mission, sits for a moment to reflect on personal problems and to consider his friends before getting his briefing. But his character doesn’t merely sit, his misgivings slow the scene dramatically. “He sat down on a yellow and white striped deckchair and looked out to the long, deep spinney that bordered on Willow Drive. Through the gaps in the serried trees and the thick bramble and bracken he could see the backs of the bungalows and wondered if the solitary figure going to and fro apparently mowing grass, was (a friend).”
Aside from “What the hell is a spinney?” the question that comes to my mind is, “How does Croft pull this off without losing the reader?” But he does. Croft writes exceptionally well.
The Wayward Spy is staged more recently than the Cold War. It is set in the halcyon years between the fall of the Iron Curtain and the onset of radical Islam and Global Jihad. England’s fortunes have declined as it sunk deeper into bureaucratic socialism but it clings to its traditions of duty and honor, even though its leaders have been plagued with scandal and its bureacracies are, well, even less appealing than those presented by Le Carre forty years ago.
Croft’s main character, Vaux, is used by everyone. In the end, he is torn between betraying his friends (who only betray him in small, touchingly human ways) or betraying his country (which exploits him in an offhand manner without honesty or any shred of concern, as a thowaway tool to serve its own bureacratic agendas). How this plays out could well be the topic of some future lecture in literary fiction. It’s an interesting read. My main problem wasn’t in recommending the book, which clearly deserves a look, it was how to fairly rate it for readers. In the end I gave it four stars.
—John D. Trudel, author.
With Syria’s civil war erupting just over two years ago, the emergence of ISIS [or ISIL], the threats of terror aimed at the United Kingdom, the United States and all democratic nations, and anyone not of the Muslim faith, I found author Roger Croft’s novel THE WAYWARD SPY to be a novel of the times.
This extremely well-written novel with very believable characters is very much on point as what we see on Fox News, CNN and BBC. There is more than enough intrigue to hold you in suspense as the story unfolds. I found myself wondering if Mr. Croft has a secret line to Edward Snowdon.
An outstanding novel, ripped from today’s explosive headlines. I highly recommend this novel and personally look forward to Mr. Croft’s next work.
J.D.Michael Phelps, Miami, Florida. Amazon review *****