Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: Olen Steinhauer's AN AMERICAN SPY; The Thursday Afternoon #MINI post; Edition #7

Good afternoon #MINI fans. I recently finished Olen Steinhauer's An American Spy, and I'm in the mood to write a book review, but don't worry, this is Thursday and the rules of the #MINI are etched in stone: short and without an excess of verbiage. (Actually, it's more of a guideline than a rule.)

The first spy I ever met was James Bond, and all the others I have met since have had to live in his shadow, because James Bond has no equal. That said, spying is a shadowy business and Bond is way too fond of the limelight to be a real spy. (But he has swag, mind you: #SWAG). So, the following generations of fictional spies went to the other extreme. John LeCarre's George Smiley was the perfect foil to Fleming's Bond: quiet and demure whereas Bond was brash; clever, not blunt; subduing his prey with intelligence and guile as opposed to gunplay. Countless other secret agents have been forged in the intervening decades, most splitting the gap between Smiley and Bond. (Frederick Forsythe's Jackal comes to mind; meticulous like Smiley but charming like Bond--and good with a gun.)

So you thought this post was about An American Spy? It is--I'm almost there, I promise. The problem is that all of the characters above are currently in their nineties. We need some new blood. Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon is a clear choice, and--in my opinion--is the most interesting spy since Alistair MacClean's Captain Mallory. Steinhauer's Milo Weaver is another candidate. It would not be fair to compare Weaver (in his third novel) with Allon in his tenth, but the bones are there and Steinhauer will undoubtedly flesh him out with his fluid prose and unflinching dialogue. Espionage is a murky, complex world and Steinhauer paints it with subtle brush strokes. And his balance is commendable, portraying the 'bad guys' as sympathetically as the 'good guys:.' (So well does he do this that it became impossible to determine who was who, good or bad.) The plotting is precise and meticulous (George Smiley would be proud) and keeps you guessing until the last page.

Pick up a copy at your local bookstore, or download one on your reader. I would love to know what you think so drop me a line when you do. I can always be reached via my WEBSITE.