Top critical review
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Gripping story masks slightly cliched writing style
on 9 November 2006
I greatly enjoyed this book - it was genuinely one of those hard to put down, staying up till 2am page turners. And what a lot of pages there are, it's a huge book, nearly 900 pages in hardback. An overview of 40 years of CIA history, the book uses the device of focusing on a number of individuals, their successes and failures and particular operations they are involved in. Real characters (including numerous spies, presidents and generals) appear, and it's clear a lot of research has gone into the book - it's not completely fictional!
The powerful story takes in spymasters on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and it's nice to see a book which isn't just from the US side. A major theme in the book is the identity of SASHA, a mole in the CIA and there is a fair amount of detail about his handling from the Soviet side.
Unfortunately, the writing style isn't up to the excellent story. The dialogue and the love lives of the main characters is in large parts cliched/over dramatic. The main character in the USSR is portrayed as a paedophile and is a one dimensional character. A number of the othe rmain characters seem to be littl emore than cardoboard cutouts. (All the wives of agents blend into one, to be honest) And the twists and turns in the SASHA sub-plot are fairly predictable - with more than half the book to go, I knew who SASHA was and how he would be captured.
That said, it's a gripping read and the operational sections are fantastic. Would make a great holiday read, worth a look if you enjoy spy stuff but don't expect great literature.