Secret Agent

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A novel by Conrad, published 1907.

A seedy shop in Soho provides cover for Verloc, the secret agent, who is working as a spy for a foreign embassy and as informer for Chief Inspector Heat of Scotland Yard. His wife Winnie has married him chiefly to provide security for her simple‐minded younger brother Stevie, and is ignorant of Verloc's spying activities. The shop is a meeting place for a bunch of ill‐assorted political fanatics united only in their effort to arouse some extremism in the over‐moderate British. We are introduced to the Russian agent provocateur Vladimir; the American terrorist ‘the Professor’; and Ossipon, Yundt, and Michaelis who easily accommodate their principles to their material needs. The foreign embassy is planning a series of outrages aimed at discrediting the revolutionary groups which will be held responsible. The first target is the Greenwich Observatory and an unwilling Verloc is ordered to engineer the explosion. He uses the poor innocent Stevie as an accomplice and the boy is blown to pieces while carrying the bomb. Winnie, grief‐stricken, kills Verloc with a knife. Fleeing, she encounters Ossipon who flirts with her and they plan to leave the country. But when he discovers Verloc's murder he steals her money and abandons her. Winnie, alone and in terror of the gallows, throws herself overboard from the Channel ferry.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Joseph Conrad (1857—1924) master mariner and author

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