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Saturday, June 09, 2007
Department of Book Reports #19
Posted by SeattleDan
For whatever reason, the spy thriller lends itself to fine writing. From Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent, to John LeCarre’s masterful body of work, and more recently, Alan Furst, the spy thriller deals with the affairs of nations, and the people who act secretly in those affairs.
An Accidental American (Random House $9.95) by Alex Carr (a nom de plume for Jenny Siler) is no exception and is an excellent literary addition to the genre. The protagonist, Nicole Blake is the daughter of a Lebanese mother and an American father, a con artist, making her an “accidental American”. She has served time in prison for forgery and now lives quietly in the south of France, with her dog, Lucifer. Her idyll is interrupted with the arrival of an American agent who recruits her to help track down her old lover, Rahim, who is suspected of ties to terrorists.
Against the backdrop of the 2003 ‘incursion’ into Iraq, and from other past events in the Mid-East, including the bombing of the American embassy in Beirut in 1983, Nicole travels to Lisbon. Once there, she becomes the pursued, and, accompanied only by a young Portuguese woman, another lover of Rahim, Nicole must match wits with her enemies, known and unknown.
Carr brings to life the sights and sounds of Lisbon. Fado plays in the background, as does the music from the old colony of Brazil. In her memories, Nicole evokes the same ambience for the place of her youth, Beirut, when it was considered the Paris of the Mediterranean, and, later, its dissolution into civil war, and invasion from all quarters.
Like most thrillers, the issues, the motivations, the duplicity and betrayal are underscored by the politics of our times. Carr does so deftly and with great clarity, keeping the story moving, alternating between Nicole’s first person narrative and a third person narrative that follows the other characters.
In addition, useful maps of Lisbon and Beirut are included and there is an afterword essay by the author that discusses the embassy bombing and the machinations of the United States in Mid-East affairs.
An Accidental American is a paperback original, priced nicely. It is available at Jackson Street Books, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, and other fine independent bookstores.
As far as I know, democommie™™™™®© hasn’t been involved in the spy game for a long time.