Review: Knecht’s Who Is Vera Kelly

Who Is Vera Kelly
Rosalie Knecht

A clever spy novel that doubles as a coming out story, while also being an disection of gender and sexuality in 1950-60s American and is an subtle exposition of the catastrophic effects of U.S. involvement in Latin America. Many spy novelists are ostensibly liberals (LeCarre, Steinhauer come to mind) who use the genre to critique the lies and machinations of Western intelligence agencies. But few, if any spy novels address gender and sexuality, and none that I am aware have used the way the deceptions forced on some by the closets of 1950s America could turn into the skills to be a spy for the CIA.
If you’re a fan of the genre, (and I certainly am) its refreshing to see that you can keep the double crosses and international intrigue, while pushing thing in a new direction staring complex queer and female protagonists.
Recommended for the enthusiast.

Rosalie Knecht

Rosalie Knecht

Review: McCarry’s Miernik Dossier

The Miernik Dossier

Charles McCarry

A clever spy novel written as a series of dossiers from the various spies and spy agencies tied up in a confused cold war battle for influence. All the classic spy novel motifs are here: betrayals both political and personal, glamourous and troubled women, troubled and glamorous men, sex, booze, violence.

The hook is that most of the novel takes place while the main characters are driving from Europe to Africa together in a Cadillac. It’s the kind of thing that could be hokey, but in the hands of a writer as talented as McCarry, works. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll like this one.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Steinhauer’s All the Old Knives

All the Old Knives: A Novel
Olen Steinhauer

Steinhauer is one of the best espionage writers working today. Maybe the best, actually. His books hit the sweet spot of fast-paced plotting with well-drawn characters and top-notch writing.

This little book goes in a somewhat different direction from the action packed Tourist books. The concept is that it is a spy novel that takes place entirely during a single meal in a restaurant where layers of deception surrounding a terrorist event are revealed through a conversation between ex-lovers. It’s tightly written with crackly dialogue and a clever plot. I’m sure it’s already been optioned into a film.   If popular fiction is your thing, you’ll like this.


Review: Littell’s The Company

The Company: A Novel of the CIA
Robert Littell

A better than average page-turner spy novel tracing the history of the agency through the stories of a group of men who come into it as it was being formed and end up in the upper reaches of the organization. Clearly based on real guys, some of them going mad from the secrets (Angelton), others of them moles for the USSR (Philby). This covers the well trod territory of the Berlin Station, the Bay of Pigs and Hungary. Fun if you’re into this kind of thing, which I totally am.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

* Side note: Here’s some book nerd trivia for ya, Robert Littel, who has written scores fo these type of popular fiction books is the father of Jonathan Littel, who wrote Les Beinveillanter (released in the U.S. in May 2009 as the Kindly Ones), the award winning book about Nazi sickos.