The fact that Maggie Hamand’s complex and nuanced Doctor Gavrilov is embellished with an encomium from the late Julian Rathbone is a measure of its quality. Rathbone, one of the UK’s best (if most under-appreciated) novelists, was not prodigal with his praise, and the fact that he says of the novel that it is ‘like the very best le Carré… gripped me more than anything I’ve read for a long time is’ a measure of its quality. Hamand’s time period in 1992, when the Soviet Union has fragmented and a Russian nuclear scientist, the eponymous Gavrilov, is attempting to forge a new life in London. But his past will not let him go, and his fund of knowledge is extremely attractive to those wishing to develop secret nuclear weapons. Also on his trail is a British journalist, and Gavrilov finds that his own life – and that of his wife and children – are now on dangerous ground.

As well as authoritatively exercising the mechanics of the spy thriller, Hamand (as in her other books) never forgets the importance of character, which is paramount here. And it’s the treatment of the latter which elevates the novel into something like the Julian Rathbone pantheon.

Doctor Gavrilov by Maggie Hamand is published by CCWC

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