Michael Frayn

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Spies can help.

Privet / Liguster

Described as having a harsh, coarse, and vulgar scent, privet (“liguster” in German) is a type of shrub commonly found in Europe. It is also the source of the unsettling, “embarrassingly familiar breath of sweetness”…

read analysis of Privet / Liguster

The Letter “X”

During their investigation of Keith’s mother’s desk, Stephen and Keith examine her diary and find tiny X marks on specific days in her calendar. They find a pattern in the “X’s,” which occur once…

read analysis of The Letter “X”


Stephen exhibits what is almost an obsession (perhaps connected to OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) against getting germs on himself. He finds “germs” on a variety of objects: the slime from the tunnel, the children…

read analysis of Germs

The Bayonet

A bayonet is a bladed weapon that can be attached to a firearm, like a rifle. Keith’s father used one in World War I, and he carries it with him when he goes off to…

read analysis of The Bayonet