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Of Our Own Device

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  49 ratings  ·  37 reviews
What do you do when you realize that the American Dream you've been working for isn't enough if it's yours alone? And what you're told to do will destroy the only true friend you've ever had?

Summer of 1985. Jack Smith is a rookie CIA case officer posted at the American Embassy in Moscow. Despite his gregarious nature, Jack is a lonely man: not only is he a reluctant spy,
Kindle Edition, 874 pages
Published March 8th 2017 by BookBaby
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Average rating 4.51  · 
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 ·  49 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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I always find it very difficult to write a review of a book that deeply moved me. I had a look at my reviews of my all time favorite books recently, and had to hold myself back not to make them disappear forever. They sound like a disjointed mumbling of a ten year old girl who has just discovered the existence of an exclamation mark. Besides, these reviews are not very helpful.

But again, I am running out of words when I try to explain how GOOD this story is, how GREAT the characters are and how
It’s 1985, Glasnost and Perestroika have come to Russia, AIDS, which had been steamrolling through the gay community, is making its presence known to the world at large, and the Year of the Spy is in full swing between the C.I.A and the KGB. Welcome to the world compellingly and masterfully brought back to life by M.K. South in Of Our Own Device.

To his colleagues in the American Embassy in Moscow Jack Smith is a recently appointed junior officer with the USIA. In reality he’s a deep co
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would like to share a few thoughts about this really OUTSTANDING book.
To get to the point - other reviewers were so right. This is NOT a romance. Rather, it's an EPIC, CONSUMING LOVE STORY. Romance doesn't hit it - too weak and to little to grasp what this book offered in its entirety. It is so much more.

"Even if you know it won’t last and it’ll hurt you in the end. But in your heart of hearts, you’ll know what you have to do: to be with that person, no matter what. For as long as it lasts. It
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, historical, br
This book is very well researched which in this case is both a good thing and a bad thing. Let me explain. The good part is that the facts as laid out in the book make you want to go and look for more details, for pictures and more facts, a thing I did and enjoyed. The bad thing here was that South was not curbed by a good editor not to use all that research in the actual book but rather to use it in those mysterious magical 'writerly' ways so that we the readers get the story, get the emotions ...more
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jenn-2019-review
Reviewed by Jenn for Diverse Reader

Of Our Own Device by M. K. South almost felt like it was written just for me! It has all the things I love all together: mystery, suspense, history, spies, intrigue, and romance all rolled into one incredible book!

It’s 1985 and we meet Jack Smith, a rookie CIA Officer, posted at the American Embassy in Moscow. The eighties were crazy times in American/Russian politics and this book touched on so much of what was going on in tho
Suanne Laqueur
Scene: Two friends at a restaurant.
Friend 1: “Wow, the food here is really terrible.”
Friend2: “I know! And such small portions, too...”

I’m at a complete loss. I don’t know how to rate this book. The espionage aspects were completely over my head, so essentially I skimmed 80% of it, looking for the love story parts. When I got to them, I found the writing sophomoric. The characters were well-developed but their dialogue was clumsy. Jack’s exclamation point-filled inner monologue was over the top
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars.
Loved it!!

If you love a love story, but need it to be more then a simple romance, you’re going to love it!

If you love a story that is full of historical events that shaped our world as we know it, you’ll love this book.

But most of all I loved the characters!
I loved Eton’s clever naivety, his quiet and total love...
He is the perfect character for me.
I also really loved Jack, but OMG, Eton just stole my heart!

It’s very obvious that the author know what she is writing about and did a goo
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jack Smith is a somewhat reluctant CIA agent under deep cover in soviet era Moscow in the mid 1980s. Preternaturally handsome, he is at heart a gay man, but as a spy he is whatever the company requires him to be - as an American working in Soviet Era Moscow he does whatever is required to project an image of banal heterosexuality. Jack is smart, savvy, suspicious as is required of him, while remaining empathetic and as the novel progresses, increasingly sympathetic towards the group of Russian n ...more
Cold War Conversations Podcast
Detailed and knowledgeable, but perhaps a little overlong

At 766 pages this is quite a long novel, but the characters are richly formed and keep you wanting to find out what happens in the end.

The author does deliver huge detail to the daily life of an American spy in Moscow and East Berlin in the 80's including the boring stuff such as report writing. They also give good insight into counter surveillance routines, dead letter drops and the like as well as period detail of 80s Moscow and Berlin.
Joyfully Jay
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sue
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.25 stars

Of Our Own Device is set during the 80s and covers most of the decade. It primarily takes place in Soviet Russia and Germany. Both nations faced massive turmoil during the 80s, turmoil that played out on American televisions and left an indelible impact on my own childhood. Of Our Own Device covers everything from the AIDS crisis, to Chernobyl and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and does so with a strong sense of historical relevancy. The history in this book reads
Igor Eliseev
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am pleased that I was lucky enough to read this powerful historical novel with beautiful, captivating figurative language. M.K. South, the author Of Our Own Device, managed to draw a faithful picture of the USSR during the last years of its life and of my own childhood, a childhood which happened to fall neatly into the post-Soviet era (I was born in 1977, and my school years stretched from 1984 until 1995). Even though, frankly speaking, I’m not a big fan of those historical events that inclu ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I will be honest. I am having the hardest time writing this review. Not because the book was bad. Far from it. But because there is just so….much. The biggest problem I had with this book is just that the writing got…..slow? There would be action and you would get into it and then BAM tons of information that made me have to put the book down for a few. One thing you need to know is this is NOT a romance by any means. This book takes place in the middle of a crucial time in history. And although ...more
May 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbt-fiction, dbml
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Of Our Own Device is a novel that brings a level of meticulous attention to the daily life of an American spy in Moscow in the 80's. Ironically enough, its greatest fault is precisely that this commitment to realism tends to highjack the narrative to the detriment of its overall well presented homosexual romance. Add to this some technical issues with the writing proper and the fact its length exposes the fact of focus by ampli
Romuald Dzemo
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a novel with great appeal to fans of espionage and stories with strong historical settings. Set during the time of the Cold War, the story introduces readers to very compelling characters. It takes place during the last years of the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc and when the rivalry between the CIA and the KGB reaches its peak.

Against this backdrop, Jack Smith, an inexperienced case officer with the CIA, is assigned to the American Embassy in Russia. A lone
Please Pass the Books
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a deeply engrossing Cold War spy thriller that follows its American protagonist, Jack Smith, through communist 80's Moscow. It delves into real events and perennial conflict that will be recognized by those new to this genre, and fleshes out the lesser known, underground machinisms that faithful readers of the genre will relish. While Jack navigates as an undercover CIA operative he entangles himself with student nuclear physicist, Eton Volkonsky. As the relati ...more
Todd Simpson
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent Spy Thriller. It’s always enjoyable to be able to up a book that can grab your attention in the first few pages, and then keep it all the way to the end. There are plenty of twist and turns in this story, and I enjoyed the complexity of it. This is certainly a book you can immerse yourself in. CIA operator Jack Smith enjoyed his job in Russia, even if he longed to be somewhere else that wasn’t so strict. Some of the things he enjoyed doing would most likely be frowned upon i ...more
Jackie Pham
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At first I thought the book could be a bit too long and that my attention span wouldn’t last until the end of the last page. Boy, was I wrong. Half way through the reading, I wish I could prolong is somehow. So, I decided to read slowly so I wouldn’t reach the end too soon.
In describing this book, I wasn’t certain I should see it as a love story, or a spy novel. If I had to pick ONE, it would have been a love story.
I thought that the plot was great and the ending left me wishing for a sequel. So
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-mm
3.5 stars

I loved the historical period - the Soviet Union in the mid to late 1980s - and having the m/m romance being set as part of a spy thriller. The historical details were really well done and the book was obviously very well-researched.

However, the book really, really needed an editor. It was way too long and the typos were rampant.

I did enjoy the epic scope of the love story but as a true "romance" there were things I don't really particularly like to see (view spoiler)
Christian Sia
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a great read set against the backdrop of the Cold War in 1985. The reader is introduced to the covert nature of the work of prominent intelligence services. This is a real thriller for fans of espionage and historical novels. Jack Smith is a newly recruited CIA case officer assigned to the American Embassy in Moscow. Jack is an outgoing man but beneath his seeming joviality is hidden another side of him, one he doesn’t want the world to see: he is gay. Meeting ...more
Lucinda Clarke
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Review for Readers' Favorite
We first meet Jack Smith in Of Our Own Device by M K South when he is working in the American Embassy in Moscow. On the surface he is one of the Cultural Attaches but in reality, he is a spy, tasked with identifying possible Russian officials and persuading them to work for the United States. He is a friendly, outgoing everyday guy, liked by everyone, but he has a secret, he is a homosexual. He mixes easily with the Russian people he meets and becomes involved with a
Tex Reader
4.0 of 5 - Thoughtful Thriller On a Par with International Spy Museum.
[Thanks to the author and Goodreads' MMRG Don't Buy My Love program for a free copy in exchange for an honest review]

I’m a fan of spy thrillers, and I really enjoyed this one. Perhaps it was because while reading this, I was also coincidentally in DC and visited the International Spy Museum. I really got into all the info there, which might also give a hint that I was already positively inclined to all that came with this nov
M.K. South
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite - 5 of 5 stars

Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a powerful thriller told around equally powerful historical events. For readers who enjoy political thrillers that are fast-paced and gripping, this book will be a
wondrous treat. The novel features one of the perennial conflicts of modern history, the tug-of-war between the CIA and the KGB, set in an age when spy work was the order of the day with a shaky relationship between the US and Russia. Jack
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Jack Smith is a somewhat reluctant CIA agent under deep cover in soviet era Moscow in the mid 1980s. Preternaturally handsome, he is at heart a gay man, but as a spy he is whatever the company requires him to be - as an American working in Soviet Era Moscow he does whatever is required to project an image of banal heterosexuality. Jack is smart, savvy, suspicious as is required of him, while remaining empathetic and as the novel progresses, increasingly sympathetic towards the group of Russian n ...more
Joel Dennstedt
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Two aspects of M.K. South’s complex espionage thriller, Of Our Own Device, starkly define the reading experience one must expect upon tackling this lengthy novel. The plotting is meticulous and brilliantly satisfying. The sex is graphic, detailed, and same gender, but it is not gratuitous, and it is absolutely essential and integral to the book’s unfolding storyline. The year is 1985, an historical period rife with Cold War strategy and tactical
Danielle Urban
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is a stunning tale. One that features the Cold War. I was instantly hooked and intrigued by this writer's talent. Every page was well-written. M.K. South brilliantly brought this novel to life. Impressive. Fast-paced, thrilling, and an unforgettable story. Spies, politics, love, and much more can be found inside Of Our Device. The main character's increasing situation with a particular character was fascinating to watch unfold. Originally sent as an assignment, Ja ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cold Warriors rejoice! A major fix for your addiction has arrived!

Okay, I'm being tongue in cheek, but "Of Our Own Device" has pretty much everything readers longing for a hit of classic Cold War spy fiction could want. Plus a bunch more. It's a big, sprawling book covering the Gorbachev era and the last years of the DDR, full of intrigue, double-crossing, deep cover operatives, and a very hot romance between CIA agent Jack and Eton, the Russian student he's been assigned to recruit.

So yeah. It'
Delicia Ramirez
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A Spy Who Fell in Love. Set in Russia, around the 80’s, is a novel filled with action, history, secret romances, politics and high society culture. When first reading, I was curious about who the main character would be. A handsome, recruited spy, simply named Jack. The description of his looks made it seem he wasn’t the typical spy. He was the kind of guy that would stand out in a crowd, but not be suspect of anything more than friendly with the ladies. Only later to find out he not only gather ...more
Ray Simmons
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Of Our Own Device by M.K. South is the first book I've read that featured a protagonist who is a spy and also happens to be gay. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was an interesting spy novel. It was fascinating to go back in time to the days of the Cold War and how we thought then. I had forgotten the feel of it, but M.K. South captures the ambiance of that era perfectly. I especially related to the conversations about classic rock music and how important and prevalent it was, n ...more
Lesley Jones
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the final years of the Communist Soviet Union, Jack Smith arrives in Moscow to work as a Cultural Affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy. Jack's role was not only to analyse the news stories, but also filter out potential targets to work as agents, whilst avoiding the attention of the KGB. Jack, a young man from California, feels completely isolated, being gay in a country where this is forbidden. He manages to keep his personal life private until Eton Volkonsky enters his life. Eton, a nuclear ...more
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M.K. South has worked in international finance and development for over 20 years, living in or traveling to many countries including the ones featured in this debut novel. Currently, M.K. works in Eastern Europe and continues globetrotting, for work and to experience the world.

"I was born a vagabond," says M.K., "in a snow-clad little place thousands miles way from the sun-drenched city on the Bla

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