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Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms
Paul Willetts

Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms

Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms is entertaining non-fiction at its best. Depicting the real life events that inspired writers such as Dennis Wheatley and Ian Fleming – who based his character M on spy hunter Max Knight – Rendezvousis a tantalising adventure through the first part of the Second World War.

Willetts focuses his story on three main players; the spy hunter Max Knight, manouvering his set of agents around the fascists sets of London, the fashion designer Anna Wolkoff, Russian émigré, fascist supporter and anti-semite and the man from Moscow, Tyler Kent, American Embassy employee and Russia fanatic. Together with a team of agents Knight infiltrated the Russian tea rooms and took down both Wolkoff and Kent – whose duplicitous actions deemed them serious threats to the nation.

The writing is engaging, pulling the narrative from character to character Willetts manages to form a sense of suspense more rigid tellings lack. However, this style may leave you wondering when Willetts has put words into character’s mouths or thoughts into the character’s mind, and when these were actual conversations or recorded ponderings. While entertaining, it can give the impression that this is a story combining fiction with fact. That aside, Willetts has utilised a wonderful way of digesting history. Not only does it make these events accessible to a wider audience, it also brings to attention forgotten heroes and villains.

At 400+ pages sometimes the detail can get in the way of the enjoyment. There are so many people that interacted with Knight, Wolkoff and Kent, that the book contains a character list at the beginning which is easy (and at times necessary) to flip back to. I had to remind myself that this is no-fiction and thus these details are necessary – events that helped shaped the course of the war.

What could have been a very long and dry book on a very clever spy hunter and his two unsuspecting victims has been transformed into a compelling story equal to some of the best crime fiction.

Publication Information

Publisher: Constable, 2015
ISBN: 1472119851

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