Summary and book reviews of An Ordinary Spy by Joseph Weisberg

An Ordinary Spy

A Novel

By Joseph Weisberg

An Ordinary Spy
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  • Hardcover: Dec 2007,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2009,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Mark Ruttenberg may not be fit for the CIA. Early in his tenure with the agency, he learns about a former operative, Bobby Goldstein, and becomes curious about the case that led to his termination. Before he can get to the bottom of what happened, however, he's shipped off to                                 , where he hobnobs with foreign diplomats and informants, who have access to              information and contacts like the powerful General                     , in the hopes of recruiting them as agents. But, when he falls for the wrong woman, he's quickly sent back to                                 , with nothing to show for his secretive work but a mysterious postcard with an unknown address on it. Who sent the postcard, and where is it supposed to lead him? Could this all be an ops test, with Mark's future hanging in the balance? Soon, he'll have to decide if righting an old wrong is worth taking a terrible and very personal risk.

1

Several months before I was scheduled to leave for     , I was assigned to the       office in              . In my case, I was shipping out in August, so I would be in       for most of the summer.

It was a busy time in      , but the officers running country desks liked to handle their own work. They’d give me an occasional name trace to run, or have me coordinate a cable with another division. But I wasn’t busy. I’d read the morning traffic—cables from the stations in                       , and what ever           traffic was coming in. I’d stop by my friends’ offices throughout the building or meet them for coffee in the cafeteria. And one or two days a week, I’d take care of various tasks I had to accomplish before going abroad, like       &...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

An Ordinary Spy is deeply engrossing and gratifying, first for the details of spycraft, but lastingly for the contortions to which it puts the reader's mind as it wends its way though its complex moral questions.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

In a stab at verisimilitude, large chunks of the novel's text are blacked out, a technique that eventually becomes an irritating stylistic tic on the part of Weisberg. More slack than taut and disappointingly thin in characterization.

Publishers Weekly

Given the quantity of blacked-out material, some readers may be more annoyed than intrigued as they puzzle over the missing information.

Booklist - Thomas Gaughan

There’s no Great Game, no derring-do, and the stresses of the work seem mostly imposed by the culture of the CIA. For those willing to contemplate the anti-Bond view of spying, this is definitely a book to read.

The Washington Post - Patrick Anderson

[A]n odd, well-written and interesting novel, a low-key corrective to all the razzle-dazzle spy tales we've read.

The New York Times - Mark Costello

Among its other satisfactions, this book is surely the best portrait of the working C.I.A. we have had in many years.

New York Times - Mark Costello

Among its other satisfactions, this book is surely the best portrait of the working C.I.A. we have had in many years.

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Beyond the Book

Redactions in Modern Literature

Though the memo at the end of the novel from the CIA Publications Review Board is addressed to the novel's protagonist, Mark Ruttenberg, thus revealing the redactions (blanked out text) as a fictional device to create an aura of authenticity, the novel did actually pass by the PRB—six times. Weisberg preemptively redacted his own work for security reasons as well as literary ones, ...

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