Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms provides the first comprehensive account of what was once hailed by a leading American newspaper as the greatest spy story of World War II.
This dramatic yet little-known saga, replete with telephone taps, kidnappings, and police surveillance, centres on the furtive escapades of Tyler Kent, a handsome, womanising 28-year-old Ivy League graduate who doubles as a US embassy code clerk and Soviet agent.
Against the backdrop of London high society during the so-called Phoney War, Kent's life intersects with the lives of the book's two other memorably flamboyant protagonists. One of those is Maxwell Knight, an urbane, endearingly eccentric MI5 spyhunter. The other is Anna Wolkoff, a White Russian fashion designer and Nazi spy whose outfits are worn by the Duchess of Windsor and whose parents are friends of the British royal family.
Wolkoff belongs to a fascist secret society called the Right Club, which aims to overthrow the British government. Her romantic entanglement with Tyler Kent gives her access to a secret correspondence between President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, a correspondence that has the potential to transform the outcome of the war.
An engrossing real-life WWII espionage thriller, perfect for fans of Ben Macintyre.
Paul Willetts has chosen a gripping topic, has researched it meticulously, and unfolded its intricacies in a very clever and readable way. He keeps the lead characters’ narratives separate, tantalisingly divulging information about them in short discrete segments. Tension builds as it all starts to come together - by the end I couldn’t switch off, so keen was I to know whether there would be any arrests and, if so, who. Like all good stories, there are a few surprises at the end. There is a large cast of diverse characters, action in diverse settings, and undercurrents of patriotism and prejudice, treachery and loyalty, and deception in many guises. Pre-war and war-time London are depicted in all their starkness, with people adapting to shifting threat levels and the ever-present demands of shortages and restrictions. Willetts knows how to pace a story, and he has some gem turns of phrase (as well as a few clunkers like ‘time flowing as unwillingly as cold béchamel sauce’). Jon Glover does a commendable job – voice and accent well matched to the subject and pretty good with most of the accents (although, like so many English narrators, he pronounces the first syllable of Roosevelt as ‘rooz’ instead of ‘rose’ which becomes more than irritating when FDR is mentioned so many times). 'Rendezvous' is a riveting read, and I look forward to more by Paul Willetts.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Honestly, I have no idea how good the story is because I couldn't get past the first chapter. The book is read in such a staccato, pontificating style that I found it difficult to even follow what was being said. I normally listen at a higher speed, but the awkwardly placed pauses and inflections made it impossible for me to understand the thoughts being conveyed. Slowing it down to normal speed made it too slow to keep my attention.
This is an incredible book and I could not stop listening. As soon as I finished it I listened again;It tells the story of Max Knight an intelligence officer and his tracking down of Anna a Russian émigré turned Hitler fanatic who is ready to betray Britain and an American spy Tyler who works for the account of the Russians. Tyler differs in that he is probably more motivated by financial gain even if his politics are mainly right wing.
This is non-fiction but the accounts are woven to read like fiction and the details of life in that early period of the start of the war are authentic and give the whole period a sense of reality. You have the introduction of rationing as it happens; the start of various preparations leading up to the war; the evacuation of the children; the changes in fashion; details about pay; menus at restaurants and so on.
The author spent twenty years researching this book and how he has managed to produce this wonderful, readable account without a minute of dullness is beyond me.
The narrator is outstanding; his impressions of Churchill, Chamberlain, Lord HawHaw, Mosley are brilliant. The only accent that I found not so well done was that of the American but other than that you cannot fault him.
Please, please make audible versions of other books by Paul Willetts and have Jon Glover read them.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This is not to be missed if you are interested in pre-war British politics. It's worth going on line to look at the pictures of some of the people and places. The book reveals the extent to which fascism was endemic in British society before the war and the way in which people were quite prepared to betray their country for the fascist cause. There is also some MI5 information which is fairly astonishing describing attempts to infiltrate the fascists - so all in all a really fascinating listen.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful