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Maxwell Smart, meet James Bond

A review of Once a Spy, by Keith Thomson

@@ (2 out of 5)

So, here we have a book by a guy who seems to have more imagination than is good for him. In Once a Spy, Keith Thomson’s first of two novels of the trade (the second is Twice a Spy), Thomson imagines a fantasy-world peopled by refugees from scripts rejected by Maxwell Smart and James Bond. It’s a little hard to take.

Thomson’s writing is reasonably good, and he’s amusing from time to time. But the level of absurdity he brings to the world of espionage detracts from the experience. His CIA and NSA and the assorted evil-doers opposing them (or running them, as Thomson might have it) are beyond the realm of credibility. Once a Spy consists of one improbable escape after another from a series of impossibly complex situations.

The book is further blemished by factual errors. Operatives for the NSA flitting all over the country (though the NSA is all about electronic intelligence and, presumably, legally, has no operatives, and certainly not in the USA). Key information uncovered in 1990 on the World Wide Web, which wasn’t invented until 1992. And that’s just two of the more memorable lapses from the facts.

There are skillfully written spy novels. This isn’t one of them.

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Filed under Mysteries & Thrillers, Spy Stories