Shaken Not Stirred by Aaron Cooley

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It’s Monday which means…. It’s time for another review and maybe another book to add to your TBR list, oh the horror. Today’s book comes from a genre that I very rarely get sent and that is more of a action style book. I tend not to read these as often although maybe I should after this fine sample. I think the reason is that with a book that incorporates spies, it tends to be filtered with something else such as a historic fiction (in this case the book is set during world war two) or perhaps a romance style novel. Here (although technically a historical fiction) we get an unaltered secret agent style writing that really pushed my buttons. A delightfully complex tale that I think you will enjoy.

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Author Aaron Cooley takes the reader on a World War II thrill ride across two continents and six nations in pursuit of the answer to this question. A first-time British spy is on the trail of the Allies’ most important Double Agent, on a mission to determine his loyalty before he can hand over the means of creating history’s most devastating weapon to the Nazis. Before his mission is over, this young Briton will be inspired to create a fictional super-agent who will one day become one of literature’s most famous characters. An engaging, fantastical what-could-have-been, SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED is not to be missed by World War II buffs, literary devotees, and especially, fans of Her Majesty’s most famous spy.

So, a quick kind of explanation; the books are really a fictionalised account of Ian Fleming’s wartime work. In Cooley’s book the spy who helps Fleming is in fact Dušan Popov. Now, names have been changes, Popov is renamed becomes Dusan Petrović and Fleming is Ioan Phlegm; clever eh. Now we can into the bulk of the review. The book follows Ion as he is working for the NI and his being sent to the Congo. Whilst there his job is to report back to MI6 as to the movements of the double agent Dusan Petrović; Petrović guesses the rouse but decides to take Ioan under his wing and teach him how to be a spy. At this point we’re a little dubious as to why, however we see the two as they dabble in the world of secret agents and here we start to see glimpses into what would become the novels of James Bond that we know today. We experience gadgets, code names and even a potential ‘Bond Girl’ named Christine who has a penchant for martinis.

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Throughout reading the book I thought it was really well written and extensively researched. Cooley manages to mix fiction with reality making you question; what if these events really did happen to Fleming! Cooley manages to wriggle in the Heisenberg and Diebner rivalry and a number of additional historic events including Hitler’s pursuit of ‘the nuclear bomb.’ It helps to really place the reader in the historic time period and make it feel all the more real which is what historical fiction is supposed to do. It’s supposed to immerse the reader and pull them to a wholly different time period all together. I haven’t seen very many James Bond films (*gasps*) but I think Bond fans will enjoy picking out the Easter Eggs which I am sure are laden throughout including the ones mentioned above and the introduction of the tux which even I noticed is a hint as to the books that were to come.

Technically the writing moves with a lot of pace and it needs to, to fit everything in. It doesn’t feel rushed or gabbled however and the writing moves with skill and dexterity. I also enjoyed that each chapter felt a little like an episode as it helped to contain the story and keep the reader on track but also on the edge of their seat. My only complaint is the writing seems to lack something. The word springing to mind is a sense of authority but that doesn’t quite sit right. I think it could have had more guts and swagger to bring it all to life but there’s so much going on that it doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the book too much.

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Overall I really enjoyed this book and the way that is managed to place me in this new world. It reminded me a little of Ben Macintyre’s Agent Zig Zag if any of you have read it (if you haven’t you definitely should,) so if you enjoyed that I can almost guarantee you will also adore this.  I think the book is a must read for any James Bond fan; I’m not sure I got as much out of it as I feel I could have done but as a spy thriller it’s still a very good example and one I think is a winner.

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