Talking to Strange Men by Ruth Rendell

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Talking to Strange Men

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Mungo Cameron is obsessed with his schoolboy spy network, in which youths from several boarding schools have taken on the espionage roles reserved for adults in the East-West struggle for power. Through an elaborate series of codes, Mungo transmits messages among his various agents as they perform minor feats of “spying.” Initially, these acts of subterfuge are only perpetrated against a rival group of young spies, but gradually Mungo sees the opportunity to expand his operations into the world at large by intervening in his father’s application to the local city council for a permit to expand his medical offices.

The spies find themselves unwittingly involved in more serious affairs, however, as their messages are intercepted by the reclusive John Creevey, who has recently been separated from his wife, Jennifer, and is desperately trying to win her back from Peter Moran, a layabout who was once her finance. John hopes that the information he has uncovered about her boyfriend’s arrest and conviction on a sex charge involving a small boy will provide the impetus for her return. He involves the spy...

(The entire section is 373 words.)