The Spy's Son: Book summary and reviews of The Spy's Son by Bryan Denson

The Spy's Son

The True Story of the Highest-Ranking CIA Officer Ever Convicted of Espionage and the Son He Trained to Spy for Russia

by Bryan Denson

The Spy's Son by Bryan Denson X
The Spy's Son by Bryan Denson
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  • Published in USA  May 2015
    368 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

Investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize finalist Bryan Denson tells the riveting story of the Nicholsons - father and son co-conspirators who deceived their country by selling national secrets to Russia.

Jim Nicholson was one of the CIA's top veteran case officers. By day, he taught spycraft at the CIA's clandestine training center, The Farm. By night, he was a minivan-driving single father racing home to have dinner with his kids. But Nicholson led a double life. For more than two years, he had met covertly with agents of Russia's foreign intelligence service and turned over troves of classified documents. In 1997, Nicholson became the highest ranking CIA officer ever convicted of espionage. But his duplicity didn't stop there. While behind the bars of a federal prison, the former mole systematically groomed the one person he trusted most to serve as his stand-in: his youngest son, Nathan. When asked to smuggle messages out of prison to Russian contacts, Nathan saw an opportunity to be heroic and to make his father proud.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Review
"I have a literary interest in the CIA, but The Spy's Son didn't do it for me. The main theme is "Why?", as in why Jim Nicholson became a spy for Russia, and why his son Nathan joined him? How does someone who worked for the CIA for 20 years turn like that? The trouble with The Spy's Son is that it's too long a path to get to those answers, in that Denson, while being in fine form in his research, is too scattershot in his writing. Where one would want to read the protagonists' origins first, to get a sense of who they are, we get instead Nathan's latest mission for his father, ending with federal agents pounding on the door of his Oregon apartment.

Spycraft is difficult enough to keep straight at the best of times and this was made more difficult in this case with the book's structure. Even once the reasons for both men's counter-espionage choices were explained it just wasn't enough to keep my interest. I'm patient enough in my reading, but I've got to be given something every now and then to keep me going. There wasn't enough of that in this." - Rory Aronsky

Other Reviews
"Starred Review. Other than spies, this book has little in common with spy thrillers, but it's just as captivating." - Kirkus

"In a stunning piece of reporting Bryan Denson has unraveled one of the strangest spy stories in American history and written a haunting book as fast paced and as exciting as the best spy novel ... and it's all true." - Robert Lindsey, author of The Falcon and the Snowman

"This is the solemn and excruciating tale of a real spy who intentionally and selfishly used his son as a go-between himself and his Russian masters after he had been caught and imprisoned, and nearly ruined his son's life into the bargain. It is a splendid read." - Frederick P. Hitz, former CIA Inspector general, Senior Lecturer at University of Virginia, and author of The Great Game: The Myths and Reality of Espionage

The information about The Spy's Son shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Bryan Denson

Bryan Denson, an investigative reporter and veteran staff writer for The Oregonian, is a Pulitzer Prize finalist in journalism for national reporting and for the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award, and the winner of the George Polk Award, among many other honors. He was a staff writer at five daily newspapers, including The Houston Post, and he has written for national magazines, including Maxim, Reader's Digest, and Running Times. Denson covered the Nicholson case as it wound through Portland courtrooms, and The Spy's Son is the culmination of a five-year investigation.

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