Sunday, February 14, 2010

Once a Spy, by Keith Thomson

I subscribe to several book newsletters, which I inevitably stop reading and just scan through. I try not to do this, because how am I ever going to find something new to read if I don't read the newsletters, but alas.

Still, every now and then something on the page will catch my eye and I'll stop, scroll back up, and read. In this case, it was a flashing advertisement for an ARC of Once A Spy, the debut novel by Keith Thomson. It looked interesting, so I filled out the request form* and several weeks later, received a copy in the mail.

I'm so glad I did, because this novel was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

From the publisher:
Drummond Clark was once a spy of legendary proportions. Now Alzheimer’s disease has taken its toll and he’s just a confused old man who’s wandered away from home, waiting for his son to fetch him.

When Charlie Clark takes a break from his latest losing streak at the track to bring Drummond back to his Brooklyn home, they find it blown sky high—and then bullets start flying in every direction. At first, Charlie thinks his Russian “creditors” are employing aggressive collection tactics. But once Drummond effortlessly hot-wires a car as their escape vehicle, Charlie begins to suspect there’s much more to his father than meets the eye. He soon discovers that Drummond’s unremarkable career as an appliance salesman was actually a clever cover for an elaborate plan to sell would-be terrorists faulty nuclear detonators. Drummond’s intricate knowledge of the “device” is extremely dangerous information to have rattling around in an Alzheimer’s-addled brain. The CIA wants to “contain” him--and so do some other shady characters who send Charlie and Drummond on a wild chase that gives “father and son quality time” a whole new meaning.
From the very beginning of this story, I was hooked. Drummond is fascinating, with his moments of lucidity and the slow revealing of his skills--usually with Charlie looking on completely flabbergasted--contrasted by the effects that Alzheimer's is having on him. He'll hotwire a car, talking to Charlie, and suddenly to him, Charlie is twelve and late for school. Charlie, meanwhile, was less endearing at first, although by the time he's rescued his father from the shelter, I'd started to warm up to him. By the end, when he's actively planning a mission, I've completely warmed up to him.

I was actually a bit disappointed by the ending--since the book doesn't end up resolving itself--but I've gotten over that as I recently (read, today) learned that Thomson is in the process of writing a sequel.

Seriously, this is the best spy duo since Mr. & Mrs. Smith. One completely untrained son. One former spy whose mind is being destroyed by Alzheimer's. Eight million dollars on the table--somewhere--and so many people who want both Charlie and Drummond dead.

How can you doubt a plot like that?

* Yes, this was an ARC, and one I requested. Blah blah disclaimer.

No comments: