by H. B. Lyle blends fiction with historical reality. The
essence of the story is the up and coming British Secret Service
that must look for spies on the home front and abroad.
Lyle noted, “I was inspired by the 100thanniversary
of the British secret service. While in the film industry,
I was working on some spy movies and also read an official
book on the anniversary. American readers need to understand
that the UK secret service is different. In the States, it
is a protective service, while in Britain it is split in two
halves, to find spies in the UK and in other countries. They
were after a lot of anarchists who were also known as communists.
The East end of London had a lot of European agitators.”
Captain Vernon Kell became the head of the recently established
Secret Service Bureau but had only one agent, Harry Wiggins.
Instead of looking for Russian and German spies Wiggins is
pre-occupied with his own cases. As someone who grew up on
the streets of London, one of the urchins trained in surveillance
by Sherlock Holmes and known as the Baker Street Irregulars,
Wiggins has promised to avenge the death of his best friend
and to track down a missing girl from the East End. The investigation
leads him to a mysterious embassy located in the affluent
neighborhood of Belgravia, which is a high-class brothel frequented
by the rich and powerful of London. The red ribbon hanging
in the window of “The Embassy of Olifa,” represents
red as the color of revolution.
Historical facts include the deaths of Edward VII, where monarchs
from all over Europe arrive for the funeral, “the greatest
coming together of royalty the world has ever known,”
with the fear that a potential assassin could spark a worldwide
conflict. At the same time, dockworkers threaten to strike,
people rumble about unions and revolution, and women suffragettes
are becoming increasingly militant. Home Secretary Winston
Churchill takes a hard-nosed attitude against all domestic
unrest, fearing anarchists are infiltrating these groups.
“I wanted to show how the Irish wanted independence
and began to militarize, something I will explore in the next
book. Also, readers should understand that half of the Kings
of Europe had as a grandmother Queen Victoria. For example,
King Edward is a first cousin to Czar Nicholas of Russia and
Kaiser Wilhelm. Only four years later they were all fighting
in the First World War.”
The book does not put Winston Churchill in a favorable light.
“I do feel in many cases he was the bad guy. Although
he had a heroic role in the Second World War, I myself do
not see him as a heroic figure and feel he has placed a high
value on his own destiny. He had crossed the floor twice,
flip flopped during his career: first a Conservative, then
a Liberal, and back to Conservative His history is based entirely
on 1940 to 1945, which is when his moment of destiny came.”
can read this for a mystery and an understanding of events
of the time.