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The Innocent Spy, by Laura Wilson

The Old-school Espionage of The Innocent Spy

Time was, espionage was – or had license to be – by far the most interesting genre in the mystery field. The threats could be as large as nations or as petty as one’s boss; the settings could span the world; and in the right (write?) hands, books were sprinkled with all kinds of fascinating “tradecraft,” everything from how to unmask a traitor to the specifics of blowing up a train en route from Vienna to Istanbul. Fabulous stuff.

But over the past 20 years or so – and for a host of reasons, maybe fodder for some good blog-chat – the vast majority of espionage novels have morphed into “thrillers,” which is industry-speak for lots of action, and not much else. I don’t mean to dis the entire thriller-genre; some writers do a terrific job (I have particularly liked Joe Finder’s books, for example). Thrillers, though, are essentially fairly simplistic, and more often than not, I want something more complex to chew on. I want a wider variety of flavors. I want more surprise.

I want The Innocent Spy. What astonishes about this book – and the others in the Ted Stratton series that follow it – is the extent to which every element, from the setting to the character of the initial murder victim, adds deep and specific flavor to the pot. There is not a single wasted element, and that’s extremely rare these days. I don’t want to give away any plot-points, and will only say that Laura Wilson’s thoughtfulness – in a genre all too often dominated by lazy thinking – is evident on every page. This is old-school espionage, and I am delighted to welcome it onto my shelves.

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