Over the past 20 years, I have given several talks at MI5, an organisation that is fascinated by its own history. On the first occasion, only a handful of women appeared among the grey-suited, often grey-haired men; ten years later a third of the audience was female (and considerably younger); this year, almost half the people in the room were women.

That is merely anecdotal evidence of a remarkable change in British intelligence. In fact and fiction, art and reality, women are playing a growing part in the espionage game, on all sides.

Killing Eve, the award-winning BBC drama now in its second season, places women in the role of both spy-hunter and hunted spy: a woman MI5 officer (Eve Polastri played by Sandra Oh),…

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