In her concluding chapter to the thrilling Moneypenny Diaries trilogy, author Samantha Weinberg fuses together the danger and suspense of Jane Moneypenny’s 1964/65 diaries along with a ring of mystery and intrigue that surrounds the current day quest of niece Kate Westbrook to create a captivating tale that truly doesn’t let go until the very last page.
Final Fling successfully follows on from 2005’s Guardian Angel and 2006’s Secret Servant in that once again, the reader is allowed to feel completely immersed in the events facing Jane during the 60’s thanks to the ‘day-to-day’ style created by the diary entries. What makes this third novel different from the previous two, however, and even more exciting because of it, is almost a full half of the 282 page-long story is dedicated to the current day affairs of Kate Westbrook–who continues on her perilous quest to uncover the details surrounding her aunt’s mysterious death in 1990. The result is an overall mix of both the adventure one would expect to find in any literary James Bond adventure, but also that added mystery element. Weinberg is so adept at keeping the pace soaring as Kate moves from location to location, questioning anyone who’ll possibly point her in the right direction for more information. Naturally, there are various forces who track her every move and seemingly have no limits when it comes to stopping her.
In Final Fling, Jane’s diaries open in July 1964 with the famous secretary more convinced than ever that there is a hidden mole, or ‘Sieve’, in the SIS, leaking secrets that could cost the lives of its agents. This paranoia eventually comes to sweep over the entire office with the usually well-respected ‘M’ becoming the subject of ridicule and Bill Tanner acting aloof and unapproachable towards Jane. Things become complicated further when Deputy Chief Christopher ‘Kit’ Linford-Hunter–someone who doesn’t exactly take a liking to Jane–and associate Percy Warren make their way into positions of leadership at the office. What eventually follows is a series of exciting investigations with ‘M’, James Bond and Jane that involves leaks of information, bitter confrontations and more.
On the other end of the spectrum, some 40 years later, Kate Westbrook continues in her search for answers regarding the death of Jane and also to discover the identity of the Sieve, the traitor she believes responsible one way or another for that act. Assisting her is Ferdy Macintyre, a man she at first despises as a result of his warnings against publishing Jane’s diaries, but then comes to admire (with some additional traces of a romance) after several meetings between the two.
Traveling to various London locations as well as the Outer Hebrides island chain off the west coast of Scotland, Kate questions several locals who were in the vicinity when Jane’s boat tragedy was officially announced as an ‘accidental death’ in October 1990. A much older Bill Tanner, other SIS officers who had worked alongside Jane and additional acquaintances also share their thoughts on the matter with Kate, including Randall Macallan, a man full of secrets and surprises.
The question of ‘Who is the Sieve?’ does finally get answered and it comes in one of the very last diary entries by Jane. This is a particularly strong move by Weinberg. With the latter half of the novel switching back and forth between Jane diaries and Kate’s present day story, it is fitting that the full details of the Sieve’s actions and this person’s ultimate fate should come directly from Jane, since she experienced the consequences of this traitor first-hand.
In terms of timeline structure, The Moneypenny Diaries: Final Fling is a bit of an oddity. Examining the status of several of the main characters at the end of the story and depending on how much importance one places on the dates, this continuation novel can be looked up as not only the final chapter of the trilogy, but also the entire literary James Bond canon. Even when it appears that the story has reached its finale, there’s one more surprise to be found on the last page. The entire trilogy really is a rollercoaster ride of mystery, suspense and action and Samantha Weinberg could not have brought it to a more spectacular end than she does here.