Read an excerpt from Elly Conway’s deathly rollercoaster ride of a thriller, Argylle
 More about the book!

Penguin Random House SA has shared an extract from Argylle by Elly Conway!

Argylle is the globe-trotting spy thriller that inspired the upcoming action blockbuster, featuring a star-studded cast including Henry Cavill, Bryce Dallas Howard, Samuel L Jackson and John Cena, directed by Matthew Vaughn of Kingsman trilogy fame.

One Russian magnate’s ambition triggers global turmoil, countered by CIA’s elite, Frances Coffey. She enlists troubled prodigy, Argylle, aware of his haunted past.

With Coffey’s guidance, Argylle embarks on espionage odyssey from Thailand to Monaco, from Mount Athos to hidden mountain caves. His journey teeters on a knife-edge, promising to either forge him into a formidable asset or shatter him entirely.



There are few places on earth more desolate than south-eastern Siberia at dawn on a bitingly cold March morning. The spiky pine forests of the taiga carpet the ground like a bed of green nails. Here there is no birdsong to pierce the minus-twenty-five-degree air. Only the whip of the wind and the plaintive howl of a distant wolf.

But a sound breaks the dead silence, a soft rumble growing louder, and now something appears, glinting in the early-morning sun. A high-speed train, its pointed nose spearing a path through the freezing air, plunging relentlessly onwards, as the thick forest gives way to swampy lowlands and windswept tundra.

In the standard carriages people lie on narrow berths, their faces to the wall, sleeping off last night’s vodka, or else sit huddled on the bottom bunks eating pirozhki, watching the scenery through smeared and grimy windows. But at the rear of the silver streak there is something quite different. A carriage of gold, bearing the initials V F and I F intertwined in imperial purple.

The real-life VF and IF – otherwise known as Vasily and Irina Federov – are very much not intertwined. In fact, it would be hard to imagine two people sharing so confined a space in a more separate manner. Irina sits in a high-backed armchair which is really more of a throne than a chair, her left foot soaking in a porcelain bowl full of rose oil with petals floating on the surface, while a pinafore-clad woman kneels on the floor vigorously scrubbing the sole of her right foot with seaweed picked up fresh from the port in Vladivostok before the train departed.

Irina has a magazine in her hands, through which she flicks uninterestedly. The train will take six more days to arrive in Moscow and cellphone coverage is practically non-existent, for all that ‘cutting-edge technology’ they were promised. She cannot talk to her friends or her sister. Cannot complain to them that being trapped in this gilded carriage with her husband makes her want to claw off her own skin. Cannot tell them how his soft voice grates at her nerve endings and that when he fixes her with his colourless, lifeless eyes behind those rimless glasses she feels like a butterfly on a pin.

And even if she could talk to them, what would they say? That they had warned her against marrying an outsider, when she could have had her pick from the old Russian families. Generations as easily traceable as the veins on your wrist. That having made her misguided choice, she should console herself by spending his billions. A holiday home on Lake Valdai. An apartment in Knightsbridge. A villa on the French Riviera. Lavish furnishings. A new yacht. More liposuction. Longer hair extensions. By now she has had so many surgeries that when she stands in front of the mirror she doesn’t recognize her own face. ‘Careful,’ he’d said the last time she came back from that private hospital in Beverly Hills, standing behind her at her dressing table as he pulled the still-tender skin on her cheeks back towards her hairline. ‘If you stretch it any more, it will tear like an old paper bag.’

The beautician, who is now using a pumice stone on the tougher skin of her heel, presses too hard. ‘Watch what you’re doing!’ Irina kicks out, unbalancing the woman, who puts out a hand to stop herself, nudging the porcelain tub and sending a small surge of water on to the plush carpet. ‘Idiot!’

Across the carriage, almost as far as it is possible to be, Irina’s husband looks up. But if he is angry at the disturbance, or concerned, or just curious even, it does not show in his flat, unremarkably featured face. He is sitting by the window in a matching armchair to his wife’s, a polished wood desk in front of him, on which sits a laptop computer the size of a small briefcase. He is looking over his notes for the live televised debate he will take part in when he arrives in Moscow. They could have flown in, of course, on one of his two private jets, but it is all part of the campaign, this magisterial process through the parts of Russia most politicians ignore – sending a message to the dispossessed hordes in the rural backwaters that they have not been forgotten, not by him anyway, gathering up the populist vote one disaffected peasant at a time.


  • Extracted from Argylle by Elly Conway, out now.

Categories Fiction International

Tags Argylle Book excerpts Book extracts Elly Conway Penguin Random House SA

1 Votes

You must log in to post a comment