American Spy: Lauren Wilkinson

Another debut novel.

There is a good book buried in here. Somewhere.

I couldn’t find it. However, you might.

I couldn’t get through and past the bizarre 1st person narrative voice, variously addressed to one of her twin sons — it’s not often clear which, and she repeatedly, confusingly, keeps referring to people through their relationship to her sons when we aren’t clear what those are — who aren’t even present for most of the novel.

The time jumps are confusing.

I guessed the plot just halfway through.

As I said, I couldn’t find enough good to outweigh all that.

You might.

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A Wanted Man: Lee Child

Short, declarative sentences. Sharp, snappy dialogue. A flexible moral compass. Just get the job done. It must be Jack Reacher. From the bestseller lists, a very “wanted man.”

One caveat: Child’s novels are all so very clearly delineated in terms of story arc, character and style that it wasn’t until Chapter Six that I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t read this one before.

The Expats: Chris Pavone

Mm, mm, good! A spy thriller in the best tradition of Le Carre and Steinhauer. The tension and plot is almost entirely psychological, with multiple layers of deceit and lying among the characters. There is very little violence and weapons appear only rarely, but the pace and tension crackles.

Reamde: Neil Stephenson

Neil Stephenson must have heard the joke: a priest, rabbi and a minister walk into a bar…

Except in Stephenson’s universe it’s an Ethiopian girl, Russian mercenary, Hungarian computer hacker, Chinese gamer, Idaho survivalists, Muslim jihadists, pot smugglers, game developers, MI6 and CIA spies and Russian mafia who all stumble into a terrorist plot.

If we were back in the bar joke, the entire menagerie would simply walk into the plot. Here, they amble, stroll, sashay, drift and saunter.

Stephenson creates great characters but although a lot happens in the book, it is definitely not, as one reviewer called the book, “fast-paced.”