American Spy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

American Spy works better as a love story than a spy novel. I liked the setting of Burkina Faso for part of the story. I liked the way the story was written for her children. The time jumps in the book were quite distracting. The bad CIA men were blandly villainous and not foregrounded enough to seem that menacing. I would have liked to spend more of the book with Marie and her family. Three stars.
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American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson is a spy novel, slight thriller and political history lesson thrown into one. 

The narration shifts between three timelines in three cities: New York, Martinique and Burkina Faso. It is easy to follow the threads, and this also helps the reader discover the evolution of Marie’s character: from a young girl in awe of her dynamic sister to a spy not readily accepted or endorsed by her colleagues. 

There were a few unexpected twists and much of the emphasis is on the relationships she has struggled to build over the years. However, for a spy, I found her to be quite naïve and easily manipulated. 

It’s less “thriller” and more “political love story”, but overall I enjoyed it.

The research is sound and the inclusion of significant facts about the CIA, FBI, the Cold War and African dictators throughout the novel almost had me thinking this was an autobiography!

#netgalley #americanspy #laurenwilkinson #littlebrownbookgroup #dialoguebooks
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'American Spy' is a story told in pieces. We ricochet between locations and times with no through line that keeps it all connected together. We hear about the main character's entire life in small fragments, with little pay off in the flash-forwards and backs about the current action. Because the narrative jumps around so much, you never know what's happening in which timeline. I lost interest so quickly because I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. It's missing the intrigue of a spy thriller and the bite of a political examination of one of the USA's most volatile historical periods. 

The story doesn't really get going until about 60% of the way in, when the core mission is revealed. Up until then, Marie's actions have been low-level: we've heard about her traumas, her absent mother, her grief. But they don't really play much with her psyche as a person. She makes questionable decisions and the whole narrative is lead by potential romances with multiple partners. The character motivation is seriously lacking throughout this book because it doesn't feel like there's much to the character at all. 

I can see what this book was trying to go for. The way Wilkinson establishes the setting and re-creates the world of a 1970s/80s/90s is great, particularly when it comes to giving us the facts behind the CIA/FBI activity at the time (and how seriously questionable it was). But otherwise...this book was kind of barren. Despite so much information packed it, so little of it actually felt relevant. This feels very debut-esque. I think it may take a few more novels for Wilkinson to really get her groove going.
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