Top Mysteries review: The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

This is part of my Wednesday reading experiences, one where I challenged my readers to read a book by Joseph Conrad, and did the same myself.

Year published: 1907
Genre: Novel
Setting & time: London, England; 1886.

The story deals with Mr. Verloc, an anarchist who is also a secret agent for a foreign embassy. When the embassy requires him to prove his usefulness by committing an act of terrorism, he conceives an idea which will not put him at risk and that will, if successful, prove his usefulness to the embassy and prevent them from exposing him to the police. But the act of terrorism goes tragically wrong and Mr. Verloc has to pay for his failure in a way he never imagined.

This book was first published over 100 years ago, but it is very relevant in today’s society because of its themes of anarchism, terrorism and the examination of the driving forces behind them.

The story is excellently written and tightly plotted and a good solid read. Not that I would read it again, like I would, for example, Lord Jim, but the time I spent reading it was well spent. Highly recommended.

Here is a link to the Project Gutenberg edition of the book. There are other online versions available, but Project Gutenberg is the only one that I have found that does not have annoying advertising.

I am now reading a totally different book that also deals with anarchism: G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. It’s interesting to compare how the two authors handle the subject. One story is perfectly serious on the surface but there is subtle humour underneath, while the other is comical to the point of farce but with a serious undertone.


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