'Assassin of Secrets' plagiarism charges: Was Q.R. Markham hiding some secrets of his own?

Spy thriller 'Assassin of Secrets' got rave reviews – until readers claimed to have discovered plagiarized passages.

Sharp-eyed James Bond fans claim to have found passages in Q.R. Markham's "Assassin of Secrets" novel that were lifted from Bond titles.

The hot new mystery novel “Assassin of Secrets” by Q.R. Markham may include one secret too many: sections of the spy thriller are now said to have been plagiarized from other novels, and Mulholland Books, the book’s publisher, has pulled it from bookstore shelves.

Similarities between the new novel and passages in James Bond thrillers were discovered by fans of the British superspy, who posted comparisons on an online forum devoted to James Bond. The US version of the novel was released on Nov. 3 and it had a planned release date of Nov. 10 in Britain., but now the British version’s status is unclear.

“We take great pride in the writers and books we publish and tremendous care in every aspect of our publishing process, so it is with deep regret that we have published a book that we can no longer stand behind,” Michael Pietsch, the publisher of Little, Brown of which Mulholland Books is an imprint, said in a statement. “Our goal is to never have this happen, but when it does, it is important to us to communicate with and compensate readers and retailers as quickly as possible.” 

The novel also includes sections that are said to be the same or very similar to sections of books by Robert Ludlum and Charles McCarry.

The publisher is offering a full refund to anyone who has bought the book, and bookstores have been asked by the publisher to return all copies of “Assassin of Secrets."

“Assassin of Secrets” was the first novel for author Q.R. Markham, which is the pen name of Quentin Rowan. Rowan has referred to himself as a co-owner of Brooklyn bookstore Spoonbill & Sugartown (although the store's majority owner Miles Bellamy calls Rowan a "small investor" in the store).

Markham had previously published a fiction piece titled “Bethune Road” under the name Quentin Rowan in The Paris Review. Edward Champion, managing editor of the cultural critique website Reluctant Habits, pointed out similarities in “Bethune Road” to Graham Greene’s “Our Man in Havana.”

“Assassin of Secrets” had received several positive reviews so far, including one from Kirkus Reviews that said it was “a dazzling, deftly controlled debut that moves through familiar territory with wry sophistication.” Publishers Weekly said in a review that the novel “strays far enough into James Bond territory to border on parody, but the fine writing keeps the enterprise firmly on track, and the obvious Ian Fleming influence just adds to the appeal.”

Jim Milliot, co-director of Publishers Weekly, told The Wall Street Journal that the reviewer had not seen any suspicious passages in the book at the time.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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