An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer

An American SpyQuick Thoughts: Milo Weaver, hero of the first two books is not in this one until 1/3 in. Either a good conclusion or a set up for a re-start of the series.

I read the first book in this series on a whim. I did not know anything about it.  But I was bored with my standard fare and wanted something different.

The first book, The Tourist, It focused on Milo Weaver and his desire to leave his job as a black ops spy, but includes a lot of background that does not come out quickly.  The second book The Nearest Exit, follows right on the heels of The Tourist, but you are well into the book before you realize that.

An American Spy, again takes you wide afield with characters mentioned in the first two books before you come back to Milo between 1/3 and 1/2 through the book.  It is much easier to read these back to back than spread over three years because there are a lot of characters and many of the characters have several aliases, almost everyone has some relationship to someone else and many of those relationships do not come up until the very last minute.

I like spy fiction.  And these are the best modern spy fiction books I have read.  In a post-cold war world the good guys and bad guys are much less clearly marked.  There are real internal struggles of conscience on all sides.  And power, more than national interest or ‘moral good’ is the main driver for many of the characters.

Of course I am just projecting, but I think that Steinhauer does a good job of raising the issues that would affect black ops.  Too much power corrupts. No one is immune to conscience.  What does it really mean to work for the best for people? You get in intelligence out of a sense of patriotism or a desire for adventure.  But you stay for power, money, the sense of the game.

At one point a friend of Milo’s has had her place ransacked by the CIA.  She is pissed.  She said she would have gladly let them look if they had asked.  Milo says it does not work that way. No one asks for permission, because they do not know what to do if you say no.  So they just assume you will say no.  The problem is that that path creates many more problems in the long term.  I thought that little half page of dialogue was the essential thesis of the book.

This really is a good series.

Purchase Links: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: