This past week's Weekly Miss Read was AMERICAN SPY by Lauren Wilkinson. Now readers, I don't normally read spy fiction, but I'm so glad I made the time to dive into this book! If you're a fan of:
- Lady spies
- Thrilling deceptions
- Romances doomed from the start
You'll enjoy this book. In fact, if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself frantically trying to race through the pages until you finish it in the middle of the night because you just can't wait to see how it ends.
Wilkinson wins with her main character, Marie. Marie's tough, having had to work through the bureaucracy of white supremacy as a black, female FBI agent in the 80s. She's smart enough to know why she's being stalled in her career and dreams of one day becoming a secret agent. Despite her dream, when Marie's approached with what seems to be the perfect gig, she finds herself conflicted with what it entails. Marie's a wonderfully layered character. While she's ambitious and smart and determined, she's also gentle and sweet -- a side of her nature she attempts and fails to repress. Marie's sense of morality guides her and throughout the book, she comes to realize where her values truly lie and act accordingly. Marie's also a compelling character to throw into this particular mission of espionage because this is her first official time acting as a spy. While she's put together and completely capable, Marie's not infallible and Wilkinson uses that as an opportunity for the reader to learn the tricks (and consequences) of the spying trade alongside Marie.
The characters surrounding Marie are particularly compelling. Each person Marie loves reveals a part of who Marie really is. Her relationship with her sister Helene acts as a driving force for Marie's career as an intelligence agent, her relationship with her mother Agathe reveals the extent of how forgiving Marie's heart is, her relationship with her lover proves her willingness to believe in a better world, and so on. Even though we're in Marie's shoes throughout the story, each of the people in her life have their own secrets and demons that make them, like Marie, dynamic characters. Only in their case, they stand by as supporting characters to Marie, who struggles with what she truly wants from her career.
AMERICAN SPY's format works to draw the reader in and make Marie's story feel personal. The perspective is solely Marie's -- the book is the letter she writes to her children detailing her history as a spy, as well as her history with her children's father. The works by keeping the reader glued to Marie's perspective. Ultimately, we're forced to handle every twist and revelation in the story right alongside Marie and peek into her reactions and thoughts to them. Of course, this makes for some fun surprises later on in the book!
The ending of AMERICAN SPY is satisfying, especially after having read multiple series starters in a row this year. Even with a bit of a cliff hanger, Wilkinson is sure to give enough details and story that I don't feel like my heart's been ripped out by the end of the book and I'm completely lost without an oncoming sequel. That said, I've never read a spy thriller that ever stopped at just one book and Wilkinson leaves a generous opportunity for a sequel or series that I'd definitely be interested in reading.