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The Irregular: A Different Class of Spy    by H. B. Lyle Amazon.com order for
Irregular
by H. B. Lyle
Order:  USA  Can
Quercus, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's a treat, a historical (pre-World Wars) spy novel, whose protagonist, ex-soldier Wiggins (who fought in the Boer War), was one of Sherlock Holmes' Baker Street Irregulars as a child, and shares some of Holmes' extraordinary talents for observation and deduction.

It's 1909 London. Revolution rumbles in Russia. Germany is building up its arms. London is filled with foreign agents. Vernon Kell, head of counterintelligence for the war office, recognizes that he needs a new type of agent, one who can blend in to the lower levels of society. After consulting Holmes, he approaches Wiggins.

At first rejecting the offer of official work, Wiggins agrees after his friend Bill (a Constable) is killed, and the game's afoot! Wiggins finds a clue, an eight-pointed star, and a Russian connection. Working undercover, he meets a spirited Latvian femme fatale named Bela, and he uncovers a mole in British counterintelligence.

As Wiggins steadily unravels what led to Bill's death, readers are given glimpses of his back story and escape from a cruel orphanage. We also see how Bela came to London and what embroils her in Wiggins' case. And Kell has a great deal to learn, from both Wiggins and his suffragette wife, Constance - she gets along very well with the spy.

Of course, it's eventually all sorted after the requisite violence and danger for our hero, who ends up becoming the first double 'O' agent of the British Secret Service.

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