Rating: 3/5 Stars
“American Spy” opens in 1986 and focuses on Marie Mitchell, a young black woman working in the FBI. As a minority in the workplace, Marie faces the contempt of her coworkers and is usually buried in paperwork rather than given important assignments. She continues to work tirelessly as an intelligence officer and is eventually given an opportunity to work on a special task force. The operation will require her to undermine one of the most key political figures of the Cold War era. Marie is up to the challenge, but this journey will change everything she knows about espionage, family and love.
The main character Marie is relatable, intelligent and strong. The story is written from Marie’s point of view. The majority of the novel is a long letter to her two children for them to read in the future. As a young black woman in the FBI, Marie starts her job as an outsider and faces different challenges than the rest of the agents. Her perspective is meaningful and insightful and provides a different take on the typically male dominated genre.
The novel opens with an intense scene where Marie is attacked in her own home. After reading that, I expected the rest of the book to follow suit. However, the book settles into the story of what led Marie to that particular event and does not continue with the thriller type of framework. I was somewhat disappointed by this although it did allow for the softer side of the FBI agent main character to develop.
Another issue that I had with this book is the main character’s relationship with her target. I found the relationship between Marie and Thomas Sankara to be slightly unrealistic and underwhelming. I expected there to be more dialogue and relationship building but the author didn’t deliver in this regard.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I liked that it explored the concepts of racial and gender inequality related to the FBI and that type of occupation. I also enjoyed the undercurrent of family and love that was woven throughout the text. This novel seemed to take more of a humanistic approach to the spy genre rather than drowning the reader in cold facts and blunt brutality.
Recommendations: This is a good choice if you enjoy women’s literature and spy books as it combines both categories.