Yesterday's Spy
Date Published05 January 2023
Price£ 8.99

Yesterday's Spy

by Tom Bradby

SIS spy Harry Tower flies to Tehran when he hears his journalist son Sean is in trouble.


This latest spy thriller by newsreader and journalist Tom Bradby is set during the real political upheaval in Iran in 1953. Prime Minister Mossadegh has nationalised oil company assets; USA and Britain are engineering a coup to unseat him and ensure the West retains control.

In a febrile atmosphere with public demonstrations on the street, young newspaper journalist Sean Tower goes missing. His father Harry, an SIS agent, immediately makes his way to Tehran. The two are estranged, particularly after the suicide of Sean’s mother a year previously, but it is clear that Harry loves his son and is determined to find him.

Harry makes contact with Shahnaz, Sean’s girlfriend, and the two work together to find out what is behind Sean’s disappearance. Sean has recently published an article which implicates the Iranian police in drug dealing, which may be some explanation for his abduction. However, Harry is conscious of another possibility: that the snatch is aimed at Harry, for reasons to do with his past.

Harry’s life as an agent has not been a happy one; during his career several operations have been compromised resulting in the deaths of British agents. The reasons for these failures are unclear, but Harry remains convinced that he is being targeted for suspicion largely because of his lower-class origins. Harry’s belief that he is a target is soon well justified by events. Harry’s dilemma, assuming he can locate his son, is how he can secure his safety.

The impression one gets from Tom Bradby’s books, as with his Kate Henderson series, is that the SIS is very small and that members rub shoulders with the PM and other top politicians. Here the book starts with Harry going to No.10 to meet Churchill, and two of Harry’s colleagues seem to constitute the whole of the SIS stable. I find these aspects rather unconvincing, but that aside the book is as good as anything Bradby has written to date, with a killer kick in the tail.

Harry’s investigations take place against developments in the politics of the day, and the sense of that is conveyed very well. This is all very interesting, and I couldn’t help feeling that the eventual revolution in that country has its roots in that period. The particular features of Tehran and other places around Iran which Harry visits are also well depicted.

As a thriller it certainly stands up, with dramatic events from Harry’s past and non-stop excitement throughout the search for his son. Harry is convincing as a man full of regrets for failing to support his wife and for his inability to connect with his son, but he’s also absolutely reliable in his tradecraft, and fully focused on the way to achieve his objectives. 

Reviewed 29 April 2023 by Linda Wilson