Alexsi Smirnov is a survivor, constantly on the verge of having his undercover identity exposed during World War II. The result would be, of course, death. But this unlikely hero knows how to protect himself. As he did in A Single Spy, the prequel that introduced Alexsi, William Christie turns around the classic espionage novel in The Double Agent by focusing on this self-proclaimed thief and delinquent whose only loyalty is to himself. Christie makes Alexsi's flaws a large part of the character's appeal.
Alexsi's actually a triple agent. The novel opens in Iran in 1943 with Alexsi warning the British about Stalin's plot to kill Churchill. A Russian orphan often in trouble with the law, Alexsi was trained by the Russian secret service and then sent to Nazi Germany, where he established himself in the German intelligence services. Christie uses Alexsi's background to show how two brutal regimes trapped an ordinary person. Rather than receiving gratitude for saving Churchill, the British want him to spy for them, and they give him a new identity and send him to Rome as a sergeant at German SS headquarters. Alexsi's myriad near-brushes with being uncovered are heart-stopping as he relies on his finely tuned and constantly evolving instincts.
Christie dramatizes a pivotal moment during World War II, one with control of the Vatican and northern Italy at stake. He skillfully weaves real events and historical figures through the thrilling plot of The Double Agent. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer