I was very impressed by this book. The first book I have read by W. Somerset Maugham. Maugham's beautiful writing evokes the life of a spy and is based on his own spying experiences during World War 1. Through a series of interrelated short stories the reader gains an appreciation of Maugham's spying experiences. He is insightful about those he meets, their motivations, and the extent to which they might be friend or foe. In the course of these stories, Maugham's protagonist Ashenden (a self portrait) gets to travel throughout Europe and Asia on missions where he meets a diverse cast of characters. Although this world is the polar opposite of James Bond, the stakes are still high (imprisonment or death a real possibility), and on a couple of memorable occasions he witnesses first hand the outcome of his work. All the stories are good, and four of them really pack a punch (The Hairless Mexican, The Traitor, His Excellency, and Mr Harrington's Washing). The book ends on a dramatic and unexpected note. It's a minor masterpiece. I will be reading more W. Somerset Maugham very soon - and if the rest of his work is up to this standard then I'm in for a treat.