The Secret Agent was written by Joseph Conrad, the first published edition was in 1907. The story is set in London around the late 1800's, that deals largely with the life of Mr Verloc and his eventful career as a spy. The book is also notable as it is one of Conrad's later political novels, which move away from his typical nautical theme. The novel deals with the issues of anarchism, espionage and terrorism. However, it also deals with exploitation, particularly in regards to Verloc's relationship with his brother-in-law Stevie.
The novel begins in Verloc's home, as he and his wife discuss the trivialities of everyday life, this is where Conrad introduces Verloc's family. Soon after, Verloc leaves to meet Mr. Vladimir, First Secretary in the embassy of a foreign country (implied to be Russia). Although a member of an anarchist cell, Verloc is also secretly employed by Vladimir as an agent provocateur. Vladimir informs Verloc that he is far from an exemplary model of a secret agent and, in order to redeem himself, must carry out an operation - the destruction of Greenwich Observatory by a bomb explosion. Verloc later meets with his friends, who discuss politics and law, and the notion of a communist revolution. Unbeknownst to the group, Stevie, Verloc's brother-in-law, overhears the conversation, which greatly disturbs him.
Joseph Conrad was a Polish British novelist, who became a British subject in 1886 after fleeing his home country of Ukraine, Russia. He was regarded as one of the greatest novelists in English, even though it was his second language. He wrote stories and novels, predominantly with a nautical or seaboard setting, with a common theme being the human spirit by the demands of duty and honour. He was a very impressionable man with many talents for writing.