Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: A Spy a At Home by Joseph Rinaldo

A Spy at HomeFor Garrison retiring from the CIA means returning to his wife and son and learning to be a husband and father full-time. Not the easiest thing for a guy who spent most of his life under-cover, especially since his past life is never really in the past - the quiet, frugal family is hiding millions of dollars in an off-shore account and terrorists whose money Garrison stole are after them. And what will happen to Noah if both his parents die before him?

With a title like A Spy At Home it is easy to expect this book to be a mystery or a thriller but it is neither. Sure, there is a mystery, and sure, there are incredibly hard to find bad guys but this novel is more about being a part of one's family than surviving in a war zone.
This is a relatively short book, only 122 pages, but it took me a while to read it, possibly because it was not like the books I'm used to where the author takes the readers into the story. Instead Garrison is the narrator, telling us about things that happened and somehow even though there's always talk about how this or that event made him feel the scenes that engaged me weren't as frequent as I would have liked. There simply wasn't the sort of detail that brings the story into the here and now and makes the characters come alive. For example when I read "Louisa began her subtle prodding..." I wished I knew what she said and how she finally got the police officer to tell her what she wanted to know. In addition to that sort of telling and not showing the copy I got had many spelling and grammatical errors and while I allow that the manuscript may have gotten proofed and revised to eliminate those at a later date they were too much of a distraction for me.
There are few characters in this book and Noah, Garrison's son with Down syndrome, is the most developed one. I repeatedly caught myself thinking that the author must have either done extensive research or has personal experience with this condition because the way Noah is portrayed feels very authentic and the family's reactions to the changes he undergoes are particularly believable.
It is understandable that secondary characters, like the family's friends and Garrison's former superior and CIA contact, weren't written with much detail but I expected that by the end of the book I would know this family. Instead while I found out what they did for a living, how they managed to keep the stolen money hidden and some very intimate particulars about their sex life I didn't really feel that I knew them. They were a family with a highly unusual story but they were a family an acquaintance told me about, not a family I got to know myself.
I really wanted to enjoy this book and in the light of some very favorable reviews out there I'm inclined to think that my state of mind wasn't ideal for it. There were quite a few very insightful moments that I felt came from experience and gave authenticity to the writing, and the final sentence was so strong that as soon as I read it I knew it was my favorite part of the book, but as a whole this novel didn't really do it for me. I urge you to check it out though, may be it'll be just right for you.

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