AVA GLASS - Me and a Spy

Written by Ava Glass

The inspiration for my spy novel, The Chase, came purely from real life. In fact, it really started in Salisbury, when two Russian assassins put a nerve agent on the front door of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double-agent in 2018.

This incident could not be covered up. An attack using chemical weapons on British soil was not something the government could pretend hadn’t happened. It was brutal and clumsy, and it dragged the covert war between Russia and the West out of the shadows and into the light.

Suddenly everyone could see that the cold war never truly ended. Instead it had raged on, furiously but quietly, just out of our view, and Britain was at the centre of it. This is a land of spies, where all nations work to betray and double-cross each other, and London is at the heart of it all.

When the Skripal case hit the headlines, I fell down a well of spies and double-agents, deception and mysterious deaths. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. I had some knowledge of this world already, as I’d worked for the Home Office a few years back in a role connected to intelligence. I wasn’t a spy, but my job involved working with people who probably were. I am aware that sounds a bit vague, but in all honesty, it’s impossible to tell who is and isn’t a spy. That is sort of the point.

Nobody walks up to you and says, ‘Hi, I’m Frank. A spy.’

They say, ‘I’m Tom from Logistics.’ And everything about them will say this is true. But it isn’t.

Everyone I met had a job, and none of those jobs was “spy” and yet a significant portion of them were. It was like a hall of mirrors.

I suppose this is why I didn’t know Eve was a spy when I met her. Back then, I’d only just started working in the office and my security clearance still hadn’t come through. In this setting, Eve’s sudden interest in me was a relief. She was friendly and chatty, about twenty-eight years old, with wavy blonde hair and an open smile. She said she worked in the legal department and she asked a lot of questions about my family and my background, my relatives in the US, and how I ended up working for the government after a career as a journalist.

“Your brother was in the military? How interesting. When was that? Was anyone else in your family in the army?”

She had a knack for asking the kinds of questions that threw me slightly off balance, and meant I was always, somehow, explaining myself. But she was charming and funny, and for several weeks we were office pals, grabbing coffee or lunch and a chat. Until one day without warning, she disappeared. Her name evaporated from the office email system. It was as if she’d never existed.

That same week, I received my security clearance.

No one ever acknowledged that Eve was investigating me but I firmly believe she was a spy. I felt like an idiot. How could I not see it? But in my defence, I’d never met anyone who lied so fluidly.

When I sat down to write a novel about a spy rescuing the son of a Russian double-agent, it was Eve who came to my mind. Eve and Sergei Skripal. I wanted to write about their world. The hidden world of spies in London. The world we know is there, but which we can never quite see.

The Chase by Ava Glass

published by Penguin £9.99  16th February 2023

Ava Glass

Book Reviews
About Us
Contact Us

Privacy Policy | Contact Shots Editor