Rebecca Starford

Translation Rights Kate Cooper, +44 020 7393 4425 Email Kate Cooper

An Unlikely Spy

book | Fiction | Feb 2021
ANZ → Allen & Unwin Pty (Ed. Jane Palfreyman)
US → Ecco Press
UK → HarperCollins

A twisting, sophisticated World War II novel following a spy who goes undercover as a part of MI5—in chasing the secrets of others, how much will she lose of herself?

Evelyn Varley has always been ambitious and clever. As a girl, she earned a scholarship to a prestigious academy well above her parents’ means, gaining her a best friend from one of England’s wealthiest families. In 1939, with an Oxford degree in hand and war looming, Evelyn finds herself recruited into an elite MI5 counterintelligence unit.

A ruthless secret society seeks an alliance with Germany and, posing as a Nazi sympathizer, Evelyn must build a case to expose their treachery. But as she is drawn deeper into layers of duplicity—perhaps of her own making—some of those closest to her become embroiled in her investigation. With Evelyn’s loyalties placed under extraordinary pressure, she’ll face an impossible choice: save her country or the people who love her. Her decision echoes for years after the war, impacting everyone who thought they knew the real Evelyn Varley.

Beguiling and dark, An Unlikely Spy is a fascinating story of deception and sacrifice, based on the history of real people within the British intelligence community.


Kate Cooper manages the translation rights for An Unlikely Spy

Film Rights


Contact Pippa Masson for more information

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The audio rights are handled by Pippa Masson.


“Class and ideologies collide in Starford’s consummate debut, a clever combination of home front drama and espionage thriller….The author does an excellent job of recreating London before, during, and after the war, and in Evelyn has created a complex heroine whose sense of duty gets her in way over her head. With suspense worthy of Hitchcock and a moral reckoning straight out of le Carré or Graham Greene, this is a winner.”—

Publishers Weekly

This historical novel has many of the tropes of espionage fiction and Starford...exploits them to good effect: the smuggling of top secret communiques on both sides, the twisty plot and unexpected denouement, as well as the adherence to that old adage of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.  

The Age

It's a fast-paced tale with plenty of plot twists and enough complexity to place it somewhere between a historical genre novel and a literary thriller. 

The Guardian

A significant theme concerns what we leave behind when we are gone.....This drives at the heart of mortality, but it is also why art is worth making. It would be easy to avoid addressing these difficult questions; the novelist who refuse to do so are rare and precious.

The Saturday Paper

The Imitator (aka An Unlikely Spy) 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

A well-crafted spy novel examines the perils of espionage’s foundation in personal relationships.

Full Review

Translation Rights
Kate Cooper
+44 020 7393 4425
Email Kate Cooper
Pippa Masson
Curtis Brown Australia
Email Pippa Masson