Publishers Weekly Top Ten Mysteries & Thrillers of Spring 2016
A debut espionage novel in the style of Alan Furst and John le Carré, An Honorable Man is a chilling Cold War spy thriller set in 1950s Washington, DC.
Washington DC, 1953. The Cold War is heating up: McCarthyism, with all its fear and demagoguery, is raging in the nation's capital, and Joseph Stalin's death has left a dangerous power vacuum in the Soviet Union.
The CIA, meanwhile, is reeling from a double agent within their midst. Someone is selling secrets to the Soviets, compromising missions around the globe. Undercover agents have been assassinated, and anti-Communist plots are being cut short in ruthlessly efficient fashion. The CIA director knows any news of the traitor, whose code name is Protocol, would be a national embarrassment and compromise the entire agency.
George Mueller seems to be the perfect man to help find the mole: Yale educated; extensive experience running missions in Eastern Europe; an operative so dedicated to his job that it left his marriage in tatters. The director trusts him. Mueller, though, has secrets of his own, and as he digs deeper into the case, making contact with a Soviet agent, suspicion begins to fall on him as well. Until Protocol is found, no one can be trusted, and everyone is at risk.
©2016 Paul Vidich (P)2016 Simon & Schuster
The book didn't live up to the expectations I had from the reviews. It was adequate and I found I did want to hang in to finish it, nonetheless. I didn't find the characters 3 dimensional nor realistic to the time period. The story was also adequate, with a little suspense, but some sections were far too drawn out. The main point of the book seemed to be to trash any outlook the author doesn't like from either a leftwing or a 2016 sensibility, I'm not sure which. The presentation of the time period was little more than a cliche and all these years later, we deserve better. There was no nuance at all, for example, in the portrayal of the McCarthy hearings. I think what modern progressives have to do to get themselves out of their narrow mindset is to imagine what should be done if there was evidence of KKK infiltration into the government. They would want to root it out by any means necessary. Surely the threat of worldwide Communism in 1953 deserved the same.
In addition to shallow characters and a distorted view of history, there were multiple times I believe words were used incorrectly or awkwardly. I did not record them all, but the latest one I just heard was "right wingism" describing the condition of people at a Republican party. Is that even a word? I would ask the author to check the platform SEVEN YEARS LATER in 1960 of one John F. Kennedy and see if it passes his 2016 sensibility test or is it also guilty of 'right wingism'. Here's a line from the JFK library: "Cold War rhetoric dominated the 1960 presidential campaign. Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon both pledged to strengthen American military forces and promised a tough stance against the Soviet Union and international communism."
The narrator also mispronounced a few words, but that is a minor problem for me.
The spy genre is one of my favourites but this was a 50's spy novel written by the equivalent of a semi-literate millenial with little understanding of history. I am planning to finish the book but the end can't come soon enough. I wouldn't read another by this author.
Kept me hanging until the end, great characters - excellent first novel by Paul Vidich, can't wait for the next one.
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