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The Amateur Spy Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
War correspondent Fesperman, the winner of the CWA's John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award, shines the light of his insider's knowledge into the dark corners of Jordan and Jerusalem in his gripping fifth thriller. After a career as an aid worker in some of the world's hot spots, 55-year-old Freeman Lockhart has retired with his 37-year-old Bosnian wife, Mila, to the Aegean island of Karos. The first night in their new home they wake to find three intruders, who spirit Freeman away to a nearby location where he's ordered to fly to Jordan to spy on a former friend and co-worker, Omar al-Baroody. When Freeman declines, his captors tell him that if he doesn't do what they ask, they'll tell the world his dark secret involving Mila from their days working in Africa. Freeman heads off to Amman to do their bidding. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., a wealthy doctor, Abbas Rahim, plots an act of terrorism that will threaten the lives of the government's highest power brokers. Freeman may be an amateur spy, but Fesperman (The Prisoner of Guantánamo) proves once again that he's a consummate professional. Author tour.(Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Burned-out aid worker Freeman Lockhart wants nothing more than to retire to a Greek island with his beautiful young wife. He makes it to the island, but three men break into his house with a job offer: they want him to get back in the business, this time to spy on an old friend whose Jordanian charity may be financing terrorists. Fesperman is a former globe-trotting journalist whose nonfiction informs his novels. But after a terrific debut (Lie in the Dark, 1999), subsequent works have gradually grown more cerebral and less thrilling—and this latest effort is hamstrung by both a surplus of expository dialogue and by curiously old-fashioned prose (Lockhart, allegedly American, exclaims “Good Lord!” and calls other men “fellows” and “scoundrels”). Although politically savvy travelers will find much to interest them in the background, the action in the foreground is somewhat slack. We don’t doubt Fesperman’s reportorial skills, but given the contemporary nature of his knowledge, it would have been nice if this novel didn’t read like a work from the past. --Keir Graff
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Top customer reviews
The basic reason for the primary character being coerced into acting as a "spy", is some secret he is protecting about his wife - when that is revealed, it seems absolutely frivolous and quite insignificant - almost more of a personal issue rather than one of any "global" impact. Thus the entire premise for the plot seems somewhat flimsy. The ending was not only predictable - which is ok, but it was so simplistically predictable - that it took away from the book - it seemed like a "made for tv" or a movie ending. It could have been so much more complex and challenging as far as character development.
Well worth reading for the writing style if not so much for the plot
Perhaps the most disturbing feature of the book is the apparent motive for Lockhart's actions. He seeks to protect a secret, not about himself, but about his wife. Lockhart inflates his own moral qualities by this steadfast refusal to reveal the secret. As it turns out, the secret is an implausible reason for any of his actions. Revealing the secret would have . . . well, that is the problem, the result of a revelation isn't a very big deal.
The second story line in the book is equally implausible. No, not implausible, flat impossible. A surgeon who treats nationally prominent politicians plans and pursues the bombing of a church full of national leaders by tunneling from an abandoned pizza joint, across an alley, to the church, almost single-handedly. But for a change of heart by the surgeon, the plan would have succeeded; we even have the surgeon's finger on the toggle switch before Lockhart saves planet earth.
Here's hoping Fesperman regains his balance in his sixth book.
Later that night three guys break into their house/bedroom. Freeman goes for the gun. Mila goes for the phone. One of the three men steps on Freeman's hand and then punches him BOOM in the face blooding his nose etc.. Mila is yanked around and the phone wrench from her. WHAT FOR FOR CRIPES SAKE?! The three intruders admit to having cut the phone lines and disarming the shotgun PRIOR to their arrival. I guess Mr. Fesperman forgot.
Freeman/Mila are lead to believe that these guys are from the CIA. If these guys are trying to pretend they are fellow Americans from the CIA and are soliciting Freeman's help why are they treating them violently? Why come in the middle of the night?
Plus at the near end of the book we find out who they really are and that makes even less sense! These guys, supposedly the best aren't going to be making such amateur mistakes (smoking in target house, using unnecessary violence).
And as another reviewer mentioned, as soon as we are informed of their real ID, POOF! we hear no more about or from them. I guess Mr. Fesperman just didn't want to go there, possibly stepping on toes, risk having his book labeled anti-semantic....etc.
The whole charade (midnight break-in, strong arm, taking to empty house) to blackmail Freeman into spying is laughable. It set the tone for the rest of the book.
Freeman was a reckless idiot. Why oh why would he keep calling and talking to his wife knowing full well the phones were tapped. Why couldn't Mila just bloody shut up, sit still and stop putting her husband at risk? How selfish. How was he able to use that laptop, the "cia" laptop, which we're lead to believe came strictly preprogrammed to perform only certain functions, to send emails etc. at Internet cafes? If they were watching him 24/7, which again we are lead to believe, why was he allowed to do so. We aren't given the impression that they have the laptop "bugged" . You'd think they, the worlds best intelligence service, would at least have setup a keylogger.
The American side to this story; famous Arab DC surgeon (to congressmen) turned radical and about to blow up a church filled with lots of Congressmen (his patients) etc., was over the top.
All n all none of this book added up.
I've read and liked most all DF other books. Will, when it comes out, try his 'The Arms Maker of Berlin'.