In a word, I would use the spy story to tell a roman noir in which the British Intelligence Service would be portrayed as a political somnambulant, tapping about in the after-lunch haze of victory, uncertain any more whether it is fighting the Russians or the Germans, but fighting anyway, because not to fight is to wake up.
He noticed that they ascribed – it was a plot in which all but Haldane compounded – legendary qualities to one another. Leclerc, for instance, would seldom introduce Avery to a member of his parent Ministry without some catchword. ‘Avery is the brightest of our new stars’ – or, to more senior men, ‘John is my memory. You must ask John.’ For the same reason they lightly forgave one another their trespasses, because they dared not think, for their own sakes, that the Department had room for fools.
Resentment had become a habit of speech with Sutherland, a philosophy. He spoke as if everything he said were the contradiction of a popular view.
‘What the Director means,’ he said acidly, ‘is that if you wish to stay in the Department and do the job, do it. If you wish to cultivate your emotions, go elsewhere and do so in peace. We are too old for your kind here.’