An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer
The Cold War era was the heyday of the spy novel. The bad guys were Soviets or East Germans, and the action involved gray men in gray cities behind the Iron Curtain. When the Cold War ended, some thought that would mean the demise of the spy novel, but they were wrong. There will always be the "other," an enemy to hate and fear. Today, we have terrorists of various stripes, of course, but we also have a new bogeyman in town, and he's Chinese. As well as a change in adversary, modern spy fiction reflects other global developments. The conspiracies these days are worldwide, with each side forming shifting alliances with armies, terrorists, self-styled freedom fighters and tribes from every hotspot on the globe. Spies jet from New York to London to Geneva to Hong Kong and dozens of other locales, using all the latest technologies to try to outmaneuver each other.
At the same time, Xin Zhu is threatened by more than Alan's scheme, as he finds himself––and, possibly, his beloved wife––the target of another plot by hidden enemies within his own security service. Milo will find himself and his family caught in the middle when Alan's scheme and the Chinese plot come together.
Here's where you notice a more subtle difference between Cold War spy fiction and Olen Steinhauer's Milo Weaver series. In the former, the operatives are usually lone wolves, with their personal relationships tending to be fleeting or emotionally barren. In An American Spy, family relationships are preeminent, not just to Milo, but to Alan, to Xin Zhu and to several secondary characters. The need to protect the family or to avenge harm done to family members forms the motive for much of the plot. It adds a different dimension to the spy story.
Before Olen Steinhauer wrote the Milo Weaver books, he wrote a terrific espionage series about a fictional Communist country at the end of the Cold War era. In addition to the Milo Weaver books, I highly recommend that series. Here are the books in that series, in publication-date order: The Bridge of Sighs, The Confession, 36 Yalta Boulevard, Liberation Movements and Victory Square.
Note: I received a free review copy of An American Spy, and a version of this review appears on the Amazon product page under my Amazon username.
I'm so glad you reviewed this. I love the Milo Weaver series. NikkiReplyDelete
Nikki, glad to hear you're a fellow fan. At the end of this one, you really have to wonder what's going to happen with the series. How long can you have an espionage series with such a reluctant spy as its protagonist?ReplyDelete
Well, that is a great title anyway. THE RELUCTANT SPY. I might read it.ReplyDelete
Olen Steinhauer's third installment of the Tourist saga is a very complex tale of espionage and human vulnerability.ReplyDelete