A Spy by Nature

A Novel

Alec Milius (Volume 1)

Charles Cumming

St. Martin's Press

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This is what they told me a long time ago.
Only make contact in the event of an emergency.
Only telephone if you believe that your position has been fatally compromised.
Under no circumstances are you to approach us unless it is absolutely necessary in order to preserve the security of the operation.
This is the number.

Alec Milius is young, smart, and ambitious.  He also has a talent for deception.  He is working in a dead-end job when a chance encounter leads him to MI6, the elite British Secret Intelligence Service, handing him an opportunity to play center-stage in a dangerous game of espionage.

In his new line of work, Alec finds that the difference between the truth and a lie can mean the difference between life and death—and he is having trouble telling them apart.  Isolated and exposed, he must play a role in which the slightest glance or casual remark can seem heavy with unintended menace.  Caught between British and American Intelligence, Alec finds himself threatened and alone, unable to confide in even his closest friend.  His life as a spy begins to exact a terrible price, both on himself and on those around him.

Richly atmospheric and chillingly plausible, A Spy By Nature announces the arrival of British author Charles Cumming as heir apparent to masters like John le Carré and Len Deighton.  A bestseller in England, it’s the gripping story of a young man driven by ruthless ambition who finds himself chasing not just success, but survival.
Look out for Charles Cumming's next novel, The Trinity Six, in March.  William Boyd calls The Trinity Six "Utterly absorbing and compelling. A brilliant re-imagining of events surrounding the notorious Cambridge spy-ring."

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Book Excerpts

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Chapter One

An Exploratory Conversation

The door leading into the building is plain and unadorned, save for one highly polished handle. No sign outside saying foreign and commonwealth office, no hint of top brass. There is a small ivory bell on the right-hand side, and I push it. The door, thicker and heavier than it appears, is opened by a fit-looking man of retirement age, a uniformed policeman on his last assignment.

“Good afternoon, sir.”

“Good afternoon. I have an interview with Mr. Lucas at two o’clock.”

“The name, sir?”

“Alec Milius.

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Praise for A Spy by Nature

“A pulsating thriller… The author transforms the mundane — transmitting a fax, playing tennis, attending a dinner party — into tension-packed scenarios." -- Entertainment Weekly
"Well researched and deftly plotted ... a book one would be seriously annoyed to have to put down." -- The Telegraph
"Cumming's supremely intelligent and utterly readable debut will delight fans of such British masters of spy fiction as John le Carré, Robert Ludlum and Len Deighton... Smartly paced and intricately plotted." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

In the Press

Fiction Review: A Spy by Nature by Charles Cumming / Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (355p) ISBN 978-0-312-36635-3

L oosely based on the author's real-life experience of having been recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in 1995, Cumming's supremely intelli
- Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

Charles Cumming

CHARLES CUMMING is the author of the international bestselling thrillers A Spy By Nature, The Spanish Game, and Typhoon. A former British Secret Service recruit, he is a contributing editor of The Week magazine and currently lives in London.

Charles Cumming


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Available Formats and Book Details

A Spy by Nature
A Novel
Charles Cumming

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
July 2007
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429917124
ISBN10: 1429917121
368 pages

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
November 2008
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312366360
ISBN10: 0312366361
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 368 pages

From The Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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