Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spycatcher: A Novel


Spycatcher: A Novel is very different from what I expected it to be.  This modern day spy thriller was written by Matthew Dunn, himself a veteran of Britain’s MI6, so I expected that the novel would be more realistic than most others of this genre.  I was only partially right in that assumption.  Dunn’s rendering of the relationship between the various intelligence agencies (American and British, primarily) and the way that complicated missions are so precisely coordinated rings true for the most part.  Realism, however, does not appear to have been Dunn’s chief objective for Spycatcher.

MI6 agent Will Cochrane is more superhero than human being.  This man apparently heals faster, and is able to tolerate more pain, than anyone else on the face of the Earth.  Within hours of taking three bullets to the stomach (and resigning himself to fact of his impending death), Cochrane is traveling back to the U.K. on a new mission for the American and British governments.  This new mission will take its own physical toll on Cochrane but he will again walk away from injuries (and tolerate unbearable levels of pain) that would kill, or at least disable anyone else for days, if not for weeks.

Surprisingly, however, this combination of realism and traditional James Bond style heroism works pretty well.  Cochrane is charged with capturing an Iranian terrorist before the man can trigger a major event in either the U.K. or the United States.  He does not know the terrorist’s name, his whereabouts, or any specifics of the man’s plan; he does not even know in which of two countries the attack will occur.  Watching Cochrane pull together a team to track down the terrorist is fascinating because the man they are trying to find is every bit as clever as anyone on the team searching for him.  The search, in fact, becomes a game of cat and mouse in which the roles of the two men are sometimes reversed as the terrorist begins to manipulate Cochrane’s efforts to locate him.

I enjoyed Spycatcher largely because Cochrane has more personal depth than a James Bond type character.  He is a man filled with personal conflicts that go back to his childhood and early teen years, years during which both his parents were shockingly snatched from him.  Now, he is dedicated to protecting those unable to protect themselves, leaving him no time for personal relationships.  His job with MI6 is his whole world.

My only complaint about the novel concerns its climax – a complaint that I will not attempt to detail because, to do so, would require me to spoil the ending for those who have not yet read the book.  I will simply say that a key decision made by one of the book’s main characters at the very end is so farfetched that it taints my overall impression of the book.  I am willing to suspend my disbelief in order to enjoy all the thriller aspects of Spycatcher, but this one scene is just too much to overlook.

That said, if you enjoy spy thrillers, and are looking for a new author and a new superspy, Spycatcher is for you.

Rated at: 3.5

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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