December 14, 2020


How quaint it sounds: the “honey trap”. But it can be a lonely life out there on the diplomatic circuit, and. for an enterprising intelligence agency, the wallflower at the embassy ball is still a reliable way to access your enemy’s secrets. As it happens, Mr. Hudson’s career self-detonated only a few days after the death of one of the most famous honey traps of the post-war era, the Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu.

Shi was a he, although for a while that wasn’t entirely clear. As a famous headline in Le Monde wondered: “Espion ou espionne?” Spy or spy-ette? James Bond or Pussy Galore? When Bernard Boursicot first saw him across a crowded room at some enchanted diplomatic evening in Beijing in 1964, the espion was certainly a he – a slip of a lad in his mid-twenties but already an accomplished singer and actor, and socially assured.

By contrast, M Boursicot was the French Embassy’s accountant, a 20-year-old schnook from the wrong side of the tracks whom the career diplomats already figured for a loser. The girls in the typing pool called him Bouricot – “Donkey” – and not as a compliment. He was a virgin, lonely and longing for love. And there, at the centre of attention, was the glamorous young Chinaman, if that’s the word.

Needless to say, read the whole thing.

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