Blowing My Cover: My Life As a CIA Spy – Lindsay Moran
I found this book while doing some research on DB John, whose tremendous Star of the North I read earlier this fall. It was on a list of some of his favorite espionage books, and thus seemed worth the read.
I did not enjoy it as much as John did.
This is Moran’s recounting of her experience as a CIA agent in the late 90s and early 00s, from recruitment through training to becoming an active field agent. Far too much of the book, in my opinion, is devoted to the training and the shortcomings of many of her classmates. The field work itself is often boring: she was sent to the Balkans to try to find war criminals the US and others were seeking after the Balkan wars. Much of her time was spent making possible sources, who often had little to offer in terms of intelligence and were generally unsavory themselves, as happy as they needed to be to continue to feed the CIA information. Along the way she struggles with being a woman in her 30s who wants a committed relationship but keeps finding opportunities at love torpedoed by her career.
Moran writes in a breezy, almost magazine-like voice. Maybe that’s what put me off as much as anything. Her tales are often light and silly. I guess I wanted gritty spy stories.
The Long and Faraway Gone – Lou Berney
I forget where I came across Berney’s name, but I owe whoever sent me to this book a huge thanks. It was fantastic.
The story centers on two characters who survived heinous crimes in 1986 in Oklahoma City. Wyatt is a private detective in Las Vegas, and was the only survivor of an armed robbery of the movie theater he worked at when he was 16. Later that same year, Julianna, then 12, was at the Oklahoma State Fair with her older sister, who snuck away to meet with a carnival worker and disappeared, her body never found.
Twenty-five years later, Wyatt returns to OK City on a case. Although focused on trying to find out who is terrorizing the owner of a night club, he is haunted by the constant reminders of his youth, and eventually begins investigating the questions that have plagued him for a quarter century: why did the robbery occur and why was he the only one not murdered?
Julianna, on the other hand, still lives in OKC meets regularly with a detective assigned to her sister’s case in hopes of finding some explanation for her presumed death. She learns that most credible suspect back in 1986, the man her sister was going off to see but who had been cleared, has returned to Oklahoma City. She does her best to get an explanation from him for what happened that night, but in the end get no firm answers and is humiliated in the process.
Berney juggles the three mysteries throughout the story with heart and deft. Although as a reader you know that Wyatt and Julianna must cross paths at some point, when they finally do it is only incidentally. Berney puts them together not to tie up loose ends in some happy, made-for-TV fashion but rather to move their stories forward. It’s a delightful move on his part, their brief moments together giving us a deeper view into each of their states of mind but nothing more.
Berney’s resolutions are, simply, fantastic. They are satisfying and surprising, but also a little messy. He’s not afraid to leave some open threads that might dissatisfy some readers. The reveal for one of the storylines is especially amazing; it caught me off guard, was incredibly moving, but also left me needing to know more.
This is a fine, fine novel and I’ve already added some of Berney’s other works to my reading list.