Ian McEwan’s latest novel is something of a mystery for me. Sweet Tooth is a spy thriller that is not quite thrilling enough. In the story Serena Frome finds her way into the world of secret intelligence after an affair with an older man in her final year of Cambridge in 1972. She is dispatched on a secret mission code-named “Sweet Tooth”, which had the aim of waging the Cold War on the cultural front, by funding anti-Soviet writers.
The novelist Serena signs up is Tom Haley, with whom she ends up having an inevitable affair. Suffice it to say that Serena fails spectacularly to keep her private life and her secret professional world separate, with serious consequences for her career.
So much for the plot. As much as I wanted to enjoy Sweet Tooth, I was never quite carried away. The fait accompli that appears as the framing device in the final chapter seemed a little too neat. Unfortunately, for me, Sweet Tooth doesn’t entirely stand up alongside some of Ian McEwan’s other novels.