The Next Chapter

Antanas Sileika reviews anonymously written spy thriller, The Kingfisher Secret

In The Kingfisher Secret, a fast-paced conspiracy novel, a beautiful Russian spy marries an egotistical man running to be president of the United States.
Antanas Sileika reviews the anonymously written spy thriller The Kingfisher Secret. (CBC)

The publisher of The Kingfisher Secret describes its author as a respected writer and former journalist who has chosen to remain anonymous to protect his source.

The plot of this novel revolves around a beautiful Czech expat who's a longtime Russian spy married to an egotistical man running for president of the United States. Many of the details of this fictional story parallel facts that are known about Donald Trump and his first wife, Ivana Trump.

The Next Chapter columnist Antanas Sileika admits that the striking similarities between Ivana Trump and secret agent Elena Craig make the novel all the more intriguing.

What it's about

"It unfolds in classic thriller style. Part of me wants to say, 'Think of The Da Vinci Code.' Part of me says, 'Think of Hitchcock.' But that might be praising the quality of the prose here a bit too much. It's a rather simple story of a journalist named Grace Elliott who stumbles upon a secret by a woman, Elena Craig, who's the fictional Ivana Trump. 

"Craig is a swallow and swallows are trained to create what are called honey traps. A swallow is a woman who will sleep with a man — that's the honey trap — and then convince him to give information to the secret police.

"Elena is an unsuccessful athlete. She's offered this way for her parents to do well. All she has to do is be ready at the drop of a hat to do whatever the secret police tell her to do. What that means is she might be happily married to somebody in Montreal and suddenly there's a knock on the door and you have to go to New York and meet this man, the fictional Donald Trump. They've eyeballed him. They think there's a future there. You must insinuate yourself and marry him and then you have to sleep with whoever we tell you to sleep with. In a strange way, we feel a sense of sympathy more for the fictional Ivana Trump than we do for the journalist."

Elena vs. Ivana

​"Both [Elena and Ivana] are athletes — pretty good, but not top-rate athletes. Both of them are then listed to have been seconds during the Olympics. In other words, their cover story is that they're athletes who are going to be second place if the first place athletes at the Olympics don't make it. Yet in both cases, even in real life, there is no record of the real Ivana Trump ever having been officially a second. The next thing that's interesting is that the real Ivana Trump's father turns out to have been an informer to the secret police, like the fictional one. Finally, both got out of Czechoslovakia — now the Czech Republic — around 1971. That was a time when, according to the sources I read, it was impossible to get out.

"At first, you think this is outlandish. This is one of those novels with a thump-thump prose of the forward driving simplicity of The Da Vinci Code. And then next thing you know, we think, 'Well, maybe. Maybe.'"

Written by anonymous

"The 'anonymous author' is a trick. It's the same kind of trick as a hanging ending in a chapter, which forces you to read forward. If you really want to be anonymous, you take a fake name. You take a pen name. You don't say, 'I am anonymous' because as soon as you say this, everybody wants to figure out who you are. So it is a trick. And like many tricks, it works. I do actually want to know who wrote this book."

Antanas Sileika's comments have been edited for length and clarity.