American Spy

Lauren Wilkinson    Pages: 289         Published: 2019

The book: New York, 1987; Marie Mitchell is an FBI officer. Young and black in a white old boys’ club, she’s given menial tasks and never gets the opportunity to work on any high-profile cases. That changes when she’s asked to go undercover on a special task force. But Marie has some doubts about taking the role. Will she accept the undercover job? Can she afford not to?

You might like it because: Wilkinson has crafted an excellent spy story that will keep you turning its pages till the end. But this is so much more than just a great thriller. In telling the story, Wilkinson raises questions about race in America, and the USA’s covert operations not only against foreign governments but also its own citizens.

What did other people say?
“An expertly written spy thriller . . . that tackles issues of politics, race and gender . . . Like the best of John le Carré, it’s extremely tough to put down. It marks the debut of an immensely talented writer who’s refreshingly unafraid to take risks, and has the skills to make those risks pay off.”—NPR

“A gutsy new thriller . . . challenging boundaries is what brave fiction does, and Wilkinson proves confident enough to carry it off.”The New York Times

Awards & Recognition:
One of the ten best books of the year – Chicago Tribune
One of the best books of the year – The New York Times Book Review
Nominated for the NAACP Image Award

How quickly will you get into the book? I was hooked by the end of the first sentence and just kept turning the pages from there to the end!

You might not like it because: The story jumps backwards and forward in time from the 1960s to the 1980s and 1990s, which might bother some readers.
You may well be frustrated at the end of the story and hope, like me, that the author is working on a sequel.  (Not that it doesn’t work as a one-off book.)

What might you read next?
The book starts with a quote from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man; you could read that novel.

If you’d like to read another espionage story, then try The Spook who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee. It is also mentioned in American Spy. It’s fictional and the main character is a black CIA operative.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Wilkinson was asked what she was currently reading. She said she was reading What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young. It’s a memoir in essays. You could pick that up.

© 2020


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