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Tuesday 15 October 2013
‘The Shanghai Factor’ by Charles McCarry
This is a clever spy thriller. The US protagonist is anonymous - he leads us through his life without ever revealing his own name. He starts in Shanghai polishing his Mandarin with the lovely Mei. Gradually he becomes the archetypical spy to whom nothing is straight forward. All that happens to him (and a lot happens!) is subjected by him to remorseless scrutiny to decide whether he is being spied on (he always felt that he was) and to decide which side is doing the spying. There are always several possibilities including, of course, his own side!
I found the slow movement through events in the USA and China with occasional outbreaks of extreme emotion or action absolutely fascinating. The final conclusion is unexpected until the very last moment and enables the reader to re-evaluate all that has occurred throughout the book. The skilful use of language adds to the pleasure - the instruction to "befriend, befuddle and betray", the description of a Chinese-American's "gem cut diction" and " many spies are aspiring novelists" - these are just some examples.
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer
Charles McCarry has many successful spy thrillers under his belt already.
Charles McCarry was born in 1930, and spent much of his non-writing life working for the CIA. He divides his time between the Berkshires and Florida's west coast.
Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.