‘We trade in secrets here, Evelyn. There’s no shame in having a few of your own. Our only concern is for who might discover them.’
Out of place at boarding school, scholarship girl Evelyn Varley realises that the only way for her to fit in is to be like everyone else. She hides her true self and what she really thinks behind the manners and attitudes of those around her. By the time she graduates from Oxford University in 1939, ambitious and brilliant Evelyn has perfected her performance.
War is looming. Evelyn soon finds herself recruited to MI5, and the elite counter-intelligence department of Bennett White, the enigmatic spy-runner. Recognising Evelyn’s mercurial potential, White schools her in observation and subterfuge and assigns her the dangerous task of infiltrating an underground group of Nazi sympathisers working to form an alliance with Germany.
But befriending people to betray them isn’t easy, no matter how dark their intent. Evelyn is drawn deeper into a duplicity of her own making, where truth and lies intertwine, and her increasing distrust of everyone, including herself, begins to test her better judgement. When a close friend becomes dangerously ensnared in her mission, Evelyn’s loyalty is pushed to breaking point, forcing her to make an impossible decision. A powerfully insightful and luminous portrait of courage and loyalty, and the sacrifices made in its name.
COMING IN FEBRUARY 2021
‘Rebecca Starford seems to be the inheritor of the cool, narrative elegance of Graham Green and John le Carre. Her building of the tale to reach the critical moral apogee of this book seems effortless, and she has found a fascinating and unexpected World War II corner of espionage and intelligence to exploit for a plot that runs like milk and honey.’ — Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
‘The Imitator gripped me to the end: I devoured it. What a rare treat to find a novel that offers both white-knuckled suspense and evocative, beautiful prose. I loved it.’ — Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites and The Good People
‘Both a gripping thriller and a deep character study, I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t love this book […] it will appeal to those who love espionage epics as well as lovers of literary classics. Starford’s handling of her protagonist’s internal divisions is assured and completely engrossing. The scene-setting is rich in historical detail but never overdone. You’ll tear through this book in one weekend, I guarantee it.’ — Bri Lee, author of Eggshell Skull and Beauty
‘A poignantly rendered narrative map of one woman’s journey from misfit to spy—and a thought-provoking examination of the gently human desires that lay the groundwork for pernicious extremism. Rebecca Starford has given us a reminder of the power of our choices.’ — Juliet Grames, author of The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna
‘A beautifully written espionage thriller […] Starford creates a well drawn character and story that highlights the emotional, physical and social toll hiding one’s true self can have on an individual.’ — Books & Publishing
‘Rebecca Starford’s memorable debut tells the story of Oxford graduate Evelyn Varley, who unexpectedly finds herself in the uncharted territories of domestic British counterintelligence during the Second World War. Readers will travel breathlessly along with Evelyn as she navigates the treacherous waters of lifelong allegiances and new alliances, foreign dangers and secrets uncovered much closer to home. Starford has penned both a beguiling tale of espionage and a noteworthy commentary on torn loyalties and the unthinkable choices of war.’ — Pam Jenoff, author of The Woman with the Blue Star