American Spy
What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love? One woman struggles to choose between her honor and her heart in this enthralling espionage drama set against an unforgettable historical backdrop.It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant but she's also a young black woman working in an old boys' club, and her career has stalled out; she's overlooked for every high profile squad, and her days are filled with monotonous paperwork. So when she's given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic, revolutionary president of Burkina Faso, whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. Yes, even though she secretly admires the work Thomas is doing for his country. Yes, even though she is still grieving the mysterious death of her sister, whose example led Marie to this career path in the first place. Yes, even though a furious part of her suspects she's being offered the job because of her appearance and not her talent.In the year that follows, Marie will observe Thomas, seduce him, and ultimately, have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American.Inspired by true events--Thomas Sankara is known as "Africa's Che Guevara"--this novel knits together a gripping spy thriller, a heartbreaking family drama, and a passionate romance. This is a face of the Cold War you've never seen before, and it introduces a powerful new literary voice.

American Spy Details

TitleAmerican Spy
Author
ReleaseFeb 12th, 2019
PublisherRandom House
ISBN-139780812998955
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Cultural, African American, Africa

American Spy Review

  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Revised Review 10/2018:4 StarsThank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing me an advance copy of this book. I greatly appreciate the opportunity and below have provided an unbiased review.Marie Mitchell is an FBI agent who while extremely qualified, is consistently passed over for high profile assignments. When you work for the FBI in the 1980's, you're living in a man's world. While buried in paperwork, she is left to wonder when her opportunity will come. One day, she is approached by Revised Review 10/2018:4 StarsThank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing me an advance copy of this book. I greatly appreciate the opportunity and below have provided an unbiased review.Marie Mitchell is an FBI agent who while extremely qualified, is consistently passed over for high profile assignments. When you work for the FBI in the 1980's, you're living in a man's world. While buried in paperwork, she is left to wonder when her opportunity will come. One day, she is approached by the CIA to take an assignment in West Africa, where she is asked to get close to the young President and help the United States advance their interests over a budding Communist ally, Marie accepts the mission, but unexpectedly falls for her mark and so begins a story of complexity that only a talented author such as Lauren Wilkinson could tell.While things have improved today in some instances and definitely on paper, there still exist the subtle ways women face constant discrimination. Whether it be that women are consistently underestimated, second guessed, "mansplained" to, etc. So it doesn't take much stretch of the imagination to put myself in Marie's shoes, trying to push against the current of the good ol' boys club, where she outmatches her supervisor and colleagues in intelligence and skill. How Marie's strengths and weaknesses are used against her are interesting to watch unfold. I enjoyed this book and not only felt that it was very well written and researched, but was unique in its category. Having the main character be a black woman and the setting of the story take place outside of Europe or the Soviet Union was a way to set this apart from many other Cold War era spy novels. Marie is a complex character who has many flaws, but that only makes her more interesting. My one criticism, which prevented me from giving the book a higher rating was the ending. I don't want to give anything away, but for me it left too many things unresolved.
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  • Katelyn
    January 1, 1970
    This is a stunning debut novel. Marie hears a creak in the middle of the night and is instantly on alert. Her sons are asleep down the hallway. When the would be killer breaks into her room, she is ready for him. Marie has spent much of her FBI training in NYC, a black woman kept away from the table by the boys club that runs the office. So she jumps at the chance to go undercover and retrieve information from the charismatic dictator of a small African country. Wilkinson's tightly constructed s This is a stunning debut novel. Marie hears a creak in the middle of the night and is instantly on alert. Her sons are asleep down the hallway. When the would be killer breaks into her room, she is ready for him. Marie has spent much of her FBI training in NYC, a black woman kept away from the table by the boys club that runs the office. So she jumps at the chance to go undercover and retrieve information from the charismatic dictator of a small African country. Wilkinson's tightly constructed story is written as a letter from Marie to her twin 4 year old boys, explaining who their father is and why Marie needs to go away for a little while, to settle accounts.This is a powerful novel of growing up as a black girl, motherhood, espionage and politics. My favorite chapters were of Marie and her sister growing up and Marie trying to carve out a safe life for her sons. The chapters on Thomas Sankara were less interesting to me, although I was interested to know that this story is inspired by true events. I'm looking forward to seeing what Wilkinson writes next.
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  • Jo Dervan
    January 1, 1970
    This story is based on a historical character, Thomas Sankara, the charismatic leader of the African country of Burkina Faso. In 1986 Maria Mitchell, a black female FBI agent was sent to Africa to seduce and assassinate Sankara. The story rotates between NYC and Africa and Martinique.Maria is a smart woman who encounters the old boys club when she tries to advance in the NY office of the FBI. Her older sister, Helene, had been killed while in the CIA and Maria feels that she wants to continue He This story is based on a historical character, Thomas Sankara, the charismatic leader of the African country of Burkina Faso. In 1986 Maria Mitchell, a black female FBI agent was sent to Africa to seduce and assassinate Sankara. The story rotates between NYC and Africa and Martinique.Maria is a smart woman who encounters the old boys club when she tries to advance in the NY office of the FBI. Her older sister, Helene, had been killed while in the CIA and Maria feels that she wants to continue Helene’s legacy. So when she is recruited for a job that involves becoming intimate with Sankara in an effort to have him overthrown, Maria accepts it. However when Maria meets Sankara, she falls under his spell but eventually is complicit in his death.Maria’s loyalties to the USA are tested when she realizes that there are many dishonest things being done under the guise of saving the world from a Communist dictator. This book is a first novel from an author who came from a law enforcement family. So she gives insight into how the agencies treat black employees and women. I enjoyed the book but would have liked more character development of the dictator.
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  • Audrey
    January 1, 1970
    This book is so many things: slow burn of a thriller, mystery, family dynamics, loyalty to country, politics and international relations. But, mostly, this book is just smart. It’s smartly plotted and executed with a smart heroine. Marie is an FBI agent during the Cold War and, who grew up during the Cuban missile crisis. She becomes involved in the US intervention in an African country that has a charismatic leader who has socialist leanings. Told in a journal format to her sons, the plot jumps This book is so many things: slow burn of a thriller, mystery, family dynamics, loyalty to country, politics and international relations. But, mostly, this book is just smart. It’s smartly plotted and executed with a smart heroine. Marie is an FBI agent during the Cold War and, who grew up during the Cuban missile crisis. She becomes involved in the US intervention in an African country that has a charismatic leader who has socialist leanings. Told in a journal format to her sons, the plot jumps between her history with her sister as well as the events that led to the journal itself. I received this arc from the publisher but all opinions are my own.
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  • Shawna
    January 1, 1970
    DNF - 1/3 of the way through. I really wanted to like this book, I just couldn't read it.Thank you to Edel Weiss for the advanced copy. I now notice that all of the other reviews are just a summary of the story line, and not about the actual book itself. I appreciate that the author was trying to do something different - she is using a narration where the protagonist is telling a story to her twin boys. The problems come in when the story will go on for a few pages, and she is talking to people DNF - 1/3 of the way through. I really wanted to like this book, I just couldn't read it.Thank you to Edel Weiss for the advanced copy. I now notice that all of the other reviews are just a summary of the story line, and not about the actual book itself. I appreciate that the author was trying to do something different - she is using a narration where the protagonist is telling a story to her twin boys. The problems come in when the story will go on for a few pages, and she is talking to people in one story line, then just randomly uses words like "you" to talk to her children, while she is in the middle of talking in the past to another person. I was constantly confused as to if we were in the story, or if she was talking to her children. She would interchangeably talk about characters referencing them in different ways - Grandma, mom, her real name, it was just a mess. It is possible that there is some distinction (page breaks, different font, something) in the physical book that is not there in the ARC. I hope so. The story line sounded great, I think it would have been awesome if she would have just told the story, and left out the first 20 pages, and the back and forth timeline.
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  • Rachel Ackley-Roffman
    January 1, 1970
    A federal agent working undercover? Secrets and plots and devious acts? Twists and turns aplenty? Yes, please! American Spy was a thrill to read. But it was also so different from your run-of-the-mill federal agent, action packed suspense novels. American Spy had all of that, but it also had so many thoughtful, heart wrenching elements that made me cry, "NO!" when the book ended. I wasn't ready to let go of this story.Set mostly in the 1980's, Marie is a federal agent running from something. The A federal agent working undercover? Secrets and plots and devious acts? Twists and turns aplenty? Yes, please! American Spy was a thrill to read. But it was also so different from your run-of-the-mill federal agent, action packed suspense novels. American Spy had all of that, but it also had so many thoughtful, heart wrenching elements that made me cry, "NO!" when the book ended. I wasn't ready to let go of this story.Set mostly in the 1980's, Marie is a federal agent running from something. The book begins with her almost-murder, and follows as she escapes with her two young, twin sons. to Martinique. The story is told in the form of a journal written to the young boys, explaining the path that will eventually take their mother away from them - perhaps permanently. Marie tells them of her life growing up, of her complicated relationship with her sister, father, and mother, of her path to becoming a federal agent and eventually working with the CIA. She tells them how she fell in love with their father - the target of her investigation. This story is compelling and well-written. While it doesn't leave you in constant suspense, it does keep pulling you back in. Definitely recommend!
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  • Karen Lewis
    January 1, 1970
    One of the most anticipated debuts of 2019, Lauren Wilkinson's AMERICAN SPY plays with a fun notion: what if James Bond was a female, black, young, single parent doing her best to live the American Dream that her father and grandfather anticipated? Intrepid Marie comes of age during the "Cold War" and does her best to figure out what it means to serve one's country and one's own sense of justice. A big crush on a charismatic African leader and huge doubts about who to trust propel the narrative. One of the most anticipated debuts of 2019, Lauren Wilkinson's AMERICAN SPY plays with a fun notion: what if James Bond was a female, black, young, single parent doing her best to live the American Dream that her father and grandfather anticipated? Intrepid Marie comes of age during the "Cold War" and does her best to figure out what it means to serve one's country and one's own sense of justice. A big crush on a charismatic African leader and huge doubts about who to trust propel the narrative. The story takes place in NYC, Martinique, and Burkina Faso. Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC. The book releases Feb 12, 2019.
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  • Nicole O
    January 1, 1970
    I was initially drawn to this book due to its unique plot and strong female protagonist. It's a fictional story rooted in historical truths, and so I figured this book had great potential (similar to what Marlon James did with A Brief History of Seven Killings). Unfortunately, this novel fell short for me. The story is told both in flashbacks and to her sons in the form of a letter/journal, which presents the author the opportunity to really delve into the character development. Instead - at the I was initially drawn to this book due to its unique plot and strong female protagonist. It's a fictional story rooted in historical truths, and so I figured this book had great potential (similar to what Marlon James did with A Brief History of Seven Killings). Unfortunately, this novel fell short for me. The story is told both in flashbacks and to her sons in the form of a letter/journal, which presents the author the opportunity to really delve into the character development. Instead - at the the end of the book, rather than wondering what the future holds for each of the people introduced within its pages, I was left wanting to know more about the inner workings of each the characters. So much more could have been done when it came to fleshing out the backgrounds of Marie's sister, mother, and lovers. Overall, the strengths in this book lie at the core of the story being told, especially from the perspective of a black woman in a male dominated field during an era of grave social injustices and civil unrest. However, this book could have and should have been a lot longer, if only to give the author a chance to flesh out the characters and let their stories be told. I'm especially upset at the way the novel ended. I understand that at times authors want to leave their readers wanting more, but it was so anti-climactic that I almost wanted to throw my kindle at the wall. Regardless, I recognize that this is a debut novel, and despite my gripes with this book, I'm looking forward to seeing what else this author has in store.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway.An interesting premise for a spy/thriller genre. I enjoyed it.
  • deep
    January 1, 1970
    PW Starred: Wilkinson’s unflinching, incendiary debut combines the espionage novels of John le Carré with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Marie Mitchell, the daughter of a Harlem-born cop and a Martinican mother, is an operative with the FBI in the mid-’80s peak of the Cold War. Marie is languishing in the bureaucratic doldrums of the agency, a black woman stultified by institutional prejudice relegated to running snitches associated with Pan-African movements with Commun PW Starred: Wilkinson’s unflinching, incendiary debut combines the espionage novels of John le Carré with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Marie Mitchell, the daughter of a Harlem-born cop and a Martinican mother, is an operative with the FBI in the mid-’80s peak of the Cold War. Marie is languishing in the bureaucratic doldrums of the agency, a black woman stultified by institutional prejudice relegated to running snitches associated with Pan-African movements with Communist links. All this changes when she is tapped by the CIA to insinuate herself with Thomas Sankara, the charismatic new leader of Burkina Faso, in a concerted effort to destabilize his fledgling government and sway them toward U.S. interests. Now the key player in a honeypot scheme to entrap Sankara, Marie finds herself questioning her loyalties as she edges closer to both Sankara and the insidious intentions of her handlers abroad. In the bargain, she also hopes to learn the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of her elder sister, Helene, whose tragically short career in the intelligence community preceded Marie’s own. Written as a confession addressed to her twin sons following an assassination attempt on her life, the novel is a thrilling, razor-sharp examination of race, nationalism, and U.S. foreign policy that is certain to make Wilkinson’s name as one of the most engaging and perceptive young writers working today. Marie is a brilliant narrator who is forthright, direct, and impervious to deception—traits that endow the story with an honesty that is as refreshing as it is revelatory. This urgent and adventurous novel will delight fans of literary fiction and spy novels alike. Agent: Kristina Moore, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)
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