Thursday, March 18, 2010

ONCE A SPY - Keith Thomson

Drummond Clark is living a quiet life in retirement and has begun the slow deterioration of Alzheimer's Disease. He worked his whole life as an appliance salesman, or so his son Charles thought. It turns out Drummond has a secret and that secret could be putting him in grave danger. The only problem is, most of the time, Drummond doesn't remember the secret due to his disease.

Drummond's son Charles is a gambling addict who is in debt up to his eyeballs with a dirty loan shark. If he doesn't come up with a very large payment soon, he will be in grave danger. Normally, Charles hates to be bothered with his aging father, but when Drummond hints at the fact that he has millions of dollars stashed away, Charlie pays close attention. And before he knows what hits him, he's in the midst of a man hunt where he and Drummond are the prey.

Traditionally I've been a cynic when it comes to spy thrillers. ONCE A SPY is so unique, though, I had to check it out. And I'm so very glad I did. The element of ONCE A SPY that drew me in was the relationship between Drummond and Charlie. The dynamics of this relationship are so life-like, I don't think any reader would have a hard time relating this father and son pair to people in their own lives. They may not have shoot outs and car chases and hidden passage ways, but they have the emotional dilemmas and connections.

In the typical spy thriller, all of the James Bond action and gadgets can come across as over the top and hard to believe. In ONCE A SPY, cynic Charlie helps to make those elements humorous and even a little more believable.

" The Dodge sped to within a half a block behind them. The gunman leaned out of the passenger window for a better shot.

'How's that idea going?' Charlie asked.

'Stop at the red.' Drummond pointed at the traffic light dangling ahead.

'The rule is except when someone is shooting you!'"
And Drummond's Alzheimer's Disease enhances the human-ness of his character. He isn't a larger than life, superman-type character; instead he's susceptible to pain and disease and heart ache. This reality makes me, the reader, care what happens to him. I have to continue reading to see his fate, instead of focusing on the improbability of the action and gadgets.

As a reader, I am a hard sell on the spy thriller, but Keith Thomson is a top-notch salesman and I walked away a happy customer.

ONCE A SPY is available now in hard cover from Doubleday (ISBN: 978-0-385-53078-1).


bermudaonion March 18, 2010 at 9:49 AM  

It sounds like I need to try Keith Thomson's work! I do enjoy a good thriller.

Kay March 18, 2010 at 10:38 AM  

I've gone and put this one on my wishlist. It sounds really good. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Jesn!

Jen Forbus March 18, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

Hi Ladies! As I mentioned, I'm usually a sceptic when it comes to spy thrillers, but this book really kept my interest and attention. I just loved the relationship between Charlie and his father. And Charlie is constantly feeling like, "I can't believe this is really happening...things like this don't really happen." So it makes for funny and sentimental as well. Definitely good stuff. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Pop Culture Nerd March 18, 2010 at 3:19 PM  

Oooh, I might have to try this one, Jen. I like action-packed thrillers but the best ones take time to also develop the characters.

And look at you cranking out these reviews this week. Did you see how Doubleday referred to you as "a significant mystery gatekeeper" on Twitter?

Christine March 18, 2010 at 7:46 PM  

"A significant mystery gatekeeper" is right! This is going on my wishlist as well. Thanks, Jen!

Lesa March 19, 2010 at 9:06 AM  

Congratulations, Jen, on the comment by Doubleday. But, we knew that, didn't we? Once a Spy is coming up on my TBR pile. I heard Keith Thomson at Poisoned Pen on Wednesday night. Recap on Sunday!

Lesa -

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