• The Trinity Six

  • By: Charles Cumming
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 11 hrs and 23 mins
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (348 ratings)

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The Trinity Six  By  cover art

The Trinity Six

By: Charles Cumming
Narrated by: John Lee
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Editorial reviews

British writer Charles Cumming’s latest thriller, The Trinity Six, postulates that there was a sixth man involved in the sensational Cambridge Five spy ring. The real Cambridge Five were recruited by Russia in the 1930s and continued to pass on information into the ‘50s. In modern day London, professor Sam Gaddis is tipped off by a journalist friend that a sixth spy is alive and well and being protected by the Russian government and the UK’s intelligence office, MI6. Gaddis, a noted Russian history scholar, decides to write a book about the case to make a quick buck to pay alimony and child support, but when the journalist and her sources turn up dead, Gaddis is pulled into the international intrigue that hops the globe from London and Moscow to Austria and New Zealand.

While The Trinity Six is set in the 21st century, John Lee’s narration recalls those old BBC radio plays from another era. Lee’s clipped English accent is muscular, maybe a little too rushed at times, but it fits the breakneck speed at which Gaddis is subsumed by the action unfolding around him. There’s often a note of incredulity in Lee’s voicing of Gaddis, which fits perfectly with an ordinary professor forced into becoming an often-reckless detective. Gaddis is in way over his head, but he’s also smart and can charm his way out situations that might otherwise get him killed. Lee hits the right notes of curiosity, anger, and fear as the thriller hurdles toward its twist conclusion.

When Gaddis goes to Russia, Hungary, and Vienna to continue his investigation, Lee gets to trot out an impressive series of accents. Since Gaddis is fluent in Russian and deals with a number of Soviet agents, Lee’s accent is realistically heavy on the consonants. The same goes for the Austrian characters, who help Gaddis escape pursuing Russian agents in an elaborate Hitchcockian thrill ride through Vienna. The female characters, including MI6 deep cover agent Tanya Acocella, come off as either too breathy or masculine, but Lee manages to give each one a distinct personality. That’s a bonus to the listener, since one of the shortcomings of Cumming’s book is that, while integral to the plot, the female characters are thinly written. But that’s a minor quibble. Sit back, have a cup of tea, and get lost in this adventure. —Collin Kelley

Publisher's summary

A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of the Year

The most closely guarded secret of the Cold War is about to be exposed—the identity of a SIXTH member of the infamous Cambridge spy ring. And people are killing for it, in Charles Cumming's bestselling thriller The Trinity Six.

London, 1992. Late one night, Edward Crane, 76, is declared dead at a London hospital. An obituary describes him only as a 'resourceful career diplomat'. But Crane was much more than that—and the circumstances surrounding his death are far from what they seem. 

Fifteen years later, academic Sam Gaddis needs money. When a journalist friend asks for his help researching a possible sixth member of the notorious Trinity spy ring, Gaddis knows that she's onto a story that could turn his fortunes around. But within hours the journalist is dead, apparently from a heart attack. 

Taking over her investigation, Gaddis trails a man who claims to know the truth about Edward Crane. Europe still echoes with decades of deadly disinformation on both sides of the Iron Curtain. And as Gaddis follows a series of leads across the continent, he approaches a shocking revelation—one which will rock the foundations of politics from London to Moscow…

"Cumming's novel is characterized by a gripping sense of realism. He displays a vast knowledge of spycraft and Cold War history, and the dense, three-dimensional world he crafts comes complete with seedy hotels and smoky nightclubs. The result is absolutely gripping. Taut, atmospheric and immersive—an instant classic." – Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on The Trinity Six

Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 Thrillers.

©2011 Charles Cumming (P)2011 Macmillan

Critic reviews

“Brilliant…scene after scene crackles with excitement, tension, and suspense. The novel's ingenious plot is almost as complicated as real life…the book is all but impossible to put aside. Cumming joins Alan Furst, David Ignatius, and Olen Steinhauer among the most skillful current spy novelists, and he bears comparison with masters such as John le Carré and Graham Greene.” —The Washington Post

“Intelligent and briskly paced…comparisons to John le Carré and Len Deighton continue to gild [Cumming's] reputation as a premier writer of espionage thrillers.” —USA Today

“With its mix of old-school espionage and present-day duplicities, The Trinity Six is a smashing Cold War thriller for the twenty-first century.” —People

What listeners say about The Trinity Six

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Fun exciting intrigues perfectly narrated.

The book has everything you could want from a spy novel and is well worth a credit (or the 20 bucks).
The story line is entertaining and believable enough to transport you into the story and keep you up till late.
Although there are some definitely moments where you could get bored, John Lee as always is able to get you through those with the sheer pleasure of listening to his voice.
Overall this book is fun, exciting and very pleasant to listen to.

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35 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

a bit disappointing, but...

I had been eagerly waiting the North American release of this book, and from the Britsh reviews, had been expecting a work of literary espionage as good as Greene or LeCarre at their best. It is good, a better than average spy novel of the traditional school, updated for today's world, but not THAT great.

I respect John Lee's narration talent, but I think he is definitely the wrong reader for this novel. It needs a "sutbler" touch. Lee can sometimes make bad prose palatable, but here (I think) he makes good prose choppy.

That said, if you enjoy novels by LeCarre, Greene, Steinhauer, or espionage without a superman protagonist pitted against a black-hatted villian, or even a fast-paced trot around Europe, this is definitely worth the credit. If you want another Ken Follet potboiler, you might want to skip this.

Maybe Cummings' next novel will be great.

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24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • J
  • 04-23-11

Consider taking a pass on this one

Paul Giamatti as James Bond, or The Hardy Boys verses Putin; I can't decide which description fits best. The verbiage comes through as well-written, but the plot is very thin and senseless. Character development surface only. Odd combination of constant action with nothing tangible happening. All sorts of chaos only to arrive at the same starting point, like riding a kiddie-sized roller coaster and coming to a stop. The protagonist is pretty much a dweeb and towards the end of the book I found myself hoping he would get shot so it could all be over. Side note on John Lee, whom I've heard narrate quite a few books and normally love....although Mr. Lee calms down by the middle of the book, at the beginning he is entirely too wound up, hyper-enuciating each syllable and super-inflecting each phrase; like a machine gun chattering. Made it hard to get into the flow. Normally on books like this that I review I point out a few flaws but usually say go ahead and give it a try. In this case no, spend your time elsewhere.

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14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Slow and plodding

Book just seemed to drag along, Probably represents the actual way these things develop, Just seemed we were never going to get through it.

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11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A bit disappointing

This book was pretty good and it's on a subject that's a magnet for the spy groupies. But I can't give it the top rating because I expected more. I was looking forward to listening to it but it didn't live up to expectations. It wasn't great but it was worth the listen. The narration was fine.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Slow and a bit boring

The novel was sluggish and a bit boring. The author spends a lot of time inside the head of the very flat main character. In a novel with very little action, character development is critical, yet Cumming squanders just about every opportunity his main character has to grow through meaningful relationships with others. There wasn't a single character in the box that was fully flushed out or endearing. Even the "shocking revelation [which] will rock the foundations of politics from London to Moscow" left me saying, "Is that all?" Overall, just a ho-hum of a book. My advice would be to skip this one.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good Potboiler - not a traditional spy novel

I enjoyed this book in contrast to some other who felt it was boring, I found it quite engaging and enjoyed the twists and turns in the plot. I would have given it a FIVE rating but I thought that John Lee's reading was a little stiff. I usually like him very much but for some reason, his delivery of the language of this author seemed not to gel for me. Otherwise a good book and I think I'll try another of Cumming's works soon.

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2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyed this story

If you could sum up The Trinity Six in three words, what would they be?

unexpected masterpiece

Any additional comments?

I've discovered for myself this author and enjoyed the story a lot. It is contemporary, it is exceptionally well done, it kept me on edge, had unexpected twists, and nice ending. This is a story of a type of "fantastic history" where the author invents a story which actually did not happen, but it is in the background of real history which did happen and it lets us to get another look at the real events of the past. This is a masterpiece of this kind. I will now listen to everything which is written by C. Cumming.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good spy thriller but a little perdictable.

I liked the listen. It kept me entertained and that is the goal, right? It didn't have me on the edge of my seat. John Lee is good. Worth a credit.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Goes farther than expected

I put this off for a while because I thought that fiction could not do justice to the Philby Burgess conspiracy. But this is not really about the 50-years ago conspiracy. It's a contemporary spy chase yarn with an academic protagonist caught up in spy doings and killings, with pretty girls turning up. Putin is in it under another name. That made it lighter and not a bad way to spend time. The reader was good enough not to be noticeable.

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1 person found this helpful