Reviewed by Joanne Lakomski

Matthew Dunn, the author of Spycatcher, has written a spy novel that took me back to the days of Robert Ludlum and his cold war novels. As I traveled in Europe in the 80s, I eagerly anticipated the released of a new Ludlum book. I was trying to speak many languages and move easily through the European capitals. For me, on long train trips, the people in trench coats with slim leather bags with whom I shared train compartments were surely characters from a Ludlum novel.

With the flavor of intrigue permeating the book, Dunn, a former M I 6 field officer, writes not of cold war threats but of contemporary threats to the West. Our world is facing terrorists grounded in extreme beliefs and working in arenas where the West has little insight. Dunn’s main character, Will Cochrane, is an MI 6 agent – code-named The Spartan – specially trained to be the master in the world of covert operations.

The Spartan partners with an elite American special ops team moving dizzyingly between Paris and Vienna and Zagreb and other familiar and less familiar locales. There is a beautiful woman with whom Cochrane begins to feel close, wanting to protect and perhaps someday to cherish her. Dunn’s story of the strategic and masterful killing machine The Spartan, also includes the humanization of Cochrane.

As Cochrane watches the plans and counter-plans play out, he also observes the interactions of others. Some are threatening to the world and some are just the interplay of families and friends as they go through their lives. Cochrane’s reflections in those instances are on his life: what could have been different and what might still be different.

Spycatcher is fast-paced and Dunn writes the duality of Cochrane’s life with detail and humanism. I found myself caught up in the tension of the book based upon tenuous nature of the intelligence against which decisions are made and actions are taken. I also worried for Cochrane’s decision-making based upon his hunger for a normal life with loving relationships. The story was complex, the plot believable, and The Spartan, in the end, human.

And now, in light of recent events in Pakistan, I am seeing this book a little differently. Spycatcher may give you a taste of what goes on in our world; events that we will never fully be aware of, nor fully understand. It was an enjoyable read, and a somewhat worrying one.

Rating: 3.5/5

Joanne is an organization development and human resources professional with a business background living in Ohio. She has lived in Europe, Africa (including her Peace Corps service in South Africa), and arround the United States. She loves to plays volleyball, read, write, and has a cat named Ender.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.