Review: Spy

Durham, NS, Canada

Spy is Ted Bell’s most recent book, a self-proclaimed thriller which continues the saga of his return character Alex Hawke. This book is running up against mixed reviews online, and I will try not to let these opinions affect my thoughts on the matter. I picked up the book at a grocery store of all places. I had some time to kill waiting in the car one day and I had forgotten to bring the book which I was reading from home. So being impulsive as I am, I decided to buy a new one while trying to find something cheap for lunch.

The designation of thriller to me is a bit of a weak one–true the book is exciting at times, but in no way would I consider it a thriller. I guess if you usually read the romance books also found in the grocery store, then you might be thrilled by this one, but I wasn’t. The idea behind the story is that a group of terrorists, using the Amazonian jungle as a training platform are planning an attack on the US, using Mexico as a platform from which to do this. I suspect this book aims to prey on the fears of many Americans of a Latin invasion combined with those of a religious terrorist attack. Powerful and thrilling? Perhaps.

The book while overall enjoyable, was a bit of a weird read. The story does tend to jump around from chapter to chapter, which some people don’t care for. I don’t mind it myself, and found this book only jumped at chapter changes, and when it did, the new scene was announced via a chapter header. One of the awkward things about the story was that I was continuously waiting for it to begin. Combine that with an extremely weak ending and you have a book that doesn’t necessarily satisfy. A bit top-heavy is how I would describe it. A lot of time is spent setting up the plot, details laid out through multiple story lines and then around 600 pages in, the author must have thought: “I’d better wrap this up soon.” And he did. Seemingly abandoning some of the weaker plot elements and paying simple lip service to others. “And they all lived happily ever after.”

Some of the things I’ve read online about the book point to the butchered use of French therein. I know enough French to understand it when written, but I’m no grammar expert, so I’ll leave that argument to those in a better position to judge. I did notice that the book seemed to cast the one French character in a bit of a sour light. He was short and called Froggy. Really? How clever. This shouldn’t be used against the book per se, as there are many good books which seem to take an ignorant view on Canadians as well. It just speaks to the bias or ignorance of the author, but I try not to let that ruin an otherwise enjoyable book. I did feel as if I was missing a piece of the background of the story, which is easy to happen when reading the fourth or fifth book in a series with the same set of principal characters. A delicate balance to educate the first time readers without boring people following the series.

I give this book a 4 out of 10. I enjoyed it enough to finish, it contained an interesting story woven together in a way which wasn’t too confusing but had a weak finish. It really wasn’t particularly thrilling and it never really compelled me to continue reading. Give it a chance if you are looking for a bit of intrigue and adventure, but don’t spend too much on it.