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American Spy

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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  6,875 ratings  ·  961 reviews
What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love? One woman struggles to choose between her honor and her heart in this enthralling espionage drama set against an unforgettable historical backdrop.

It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant but she's also a young black woman working in
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Kindle Edition, 292 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Random House
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Jacqueline A Kane I wanted more but it was okay. The character has shown what she can do. I think her next mission would be another book.

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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  6,875 ratings  ·  961 reviews


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Read By RodKelly
Solid 3.5

There are great things here: a complex protagonist who's a black FBI agent embroiled in a case that becomes more dangerous and violent as time passes. The author explores how sexism affects the main character her at the work place, and also delves into the complicated experience she had growing without her mother, to name a couple of the major themes in this novel.

But overall, the novel suffers from lack of narrative momentum. It's slow going and ineffective at keeping up the
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Sydney
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book felt like a missed opportunity. It was such an interesting premise, I went into it with high hopes. Then it committed the fatal error of being boring. The framework of the book--the way the narrator is telling the story in a journal for her sons--didn't work for me. The writing style ended up being far too reflective, with not enough immediacy. I just felt like there was far too much telling and way too little in the way of showing. Plus there were lots of details in the plot that I ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the last of the Camp TOB books for the Tournament of Books and I thought it was pretty good. It is largely set in Burkina Faso and Martinique, two countries I have not yet had the chance to read books from, and I always enjoy learning more about places. Despite the alternating time periods and the fact that it is a spy novel, it's a pretty slow burn. I set it aside a few times to read other things but was ultimately glad I came back to it. And I loved the ending.

ETA a few quotations:

"I
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Books on Stereo
A mid-tier spy narrative that quickly loses steam after its neck-breaking opening sequence.
Shawna
Nov 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF - 1/3 of the way through. I really wanted to like this book, I just couldn't read it.

Thank you to Edel Weiss for the advanced copy.

I now notice that all of the other reviews are just a summary of the story line, and not about the actual book itself. I appreciate that the author was trying to do something different - she is using a narration where the protagonist is telling a story to her twin boys. The problems come in when the story will go on for a few pages, and she is talking to people
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Jessica Jeffers
This is a delightful twist on the spy thriller. More to come.
Vivian
This has the worst opening paragraph: first person point of view that manages to make what should be a tension-filled moment into a myopic moment of tedium.
I unlocked the safe beneath my desk, grabbed my old service automatic, and crept toward my bedroom doorway, stealthy until I was brought to grief by a Lego Duplo that stung the sole of my foot. I hobbled the rest of the way to the door and crouched behind it.

I have no interest in subsequent insights this individual might have. Duplo, really?
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Jiny S
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is best story I’ve ever read that gives black women a voice as a marginalized minority in society. It is also one of the best spy books on my shelves. The storytelling is coherent, cognoscible, and not to mention heartpoundingly intense.

Throughout the narration, political ideologies permeate both the protagonist’s personal life and the on the world’s stage that she is involved in as a result of her job. She has to make so many decisions. What is right or wrong that’s not black and white.
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Rincey
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poc-author
3.5 stars
Nicole O
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, fiction, netgalley
I was initially drawn to this book due to its unique plot and strong female protagonist. It's a fictional story rooted in historical truths, and so I figured this book had great potential (similar to what Marlon James did with A Brief History of Seven Killings).

Unfortunately, this novel fell short for me. The story is told both in flashbacks and to her sons in the form of a letter/journal, which presents the author the opportunity to really delve into the character development. Instead - at the
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Jill
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are many spy novels out there but the best are novels that capture the CIA’s nation destabilization efforts in a compelling and eye-opening new way.

Kudos, then, to Lauren Wilkinson, whose protagonist is Marie Mitchell, a black woman whose parents are a Harlem-born cop and a Martinique-born, FBI-operative mother. Whip smart, congenitally wary, and unable to tolerate deception, Marie is a character unlike others that readers like me have met before.

After not “playing the game” properly at
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switterbug (Betsey)
What initially attracted me to this book were two things—the artful, vibrant cover and the title. I’m not a fan of genre spy novels like Bourne Identity, but prefer when the spy content is linked to something deeper and more thematic, such as in Mailer’s HARLOT’S GHOST, DeLillo’s LIBRA, and, more recently, Lea Carpenter’s RED WHITE BLUE. Not that all good spy novels have to have intellectual heft, but in order to engage me, I want to feel something personal in the pages. And this is a genuinely ...more
Amanda
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this twist on the typical spy novel. I loved Marie and her story. I didn’t really know much about the actual history so I I had to do some googling. Well written and engaging. Definitely recommend.
Lata
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this a lot. Part spy story, but also so much more, with essentially a giant letter to main character Marie’s sons framing this story.
This book has so much going on in it, as Marie describes different periods of her past to her sons, explaining how she got to where she did. There are complicated family dynamics, the experience of growing up terrified of a nuclear war, the dual nature of the judicial system based on one’s skin colour, being sidelined and constantly diminished at work
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Katie Long
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Set during the Cold War while the US was engaging in troubling covert operations to stop the spread of Communism in West Africa. The description (and of course the title) makes it sound like a spy thriller, and to a certain extent that’s what it is, but that was the least interesting part to me. What engaged me the most was Marie’s voice and perspective as a Black woman in white man’s profession. The way she is cautious and plays along when she needs to, but never allows the people who ...more
Michelle
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Revised Review 10/2018:

4 Stars

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing me an advance copy of this book. I greatly appreciate the opportunity and below have provided an unbiased review.

Marie Mitchell is an FBI agent who while extremely qualified, is consistently passed over for high profile assignments. When you work for the FBI in the 1980's, you're living in a man's world. While buried in paperwork, she is left to wonder when her opportunity will come. One day, she is approached by
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Kay
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I was sold a 6 for a 9. This book has been marketed as a thriller/mystery. It's not. It's closer to historical fiction and I definitely feel that the marketing influenced my final opinion.

The story feels like a diary entry, which it kinda is, but this is no something I was aware of going in. I found myself skipping over parts because I just wanted it to be over. The novel feels more introspective than action or plot driven. While I love a character driven story this one feels,
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Katie.dorny
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This was a 3.5/4 star read for me. I can’t believe it’s not on others people’s radar!
I really enjoyed meeting Marie and getting inside her mind.
We travel with her through childhood, her adolescence and everything that shape her into her current federal agent she is. Moreover, she is the only black woman in the 90’s at her office.
It’s eye opening and at first I thought it was a bit too simply narrated for me, but then I realised I was learning as the protagonist was and that I was being lead
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Julie Christine
After fending off an attempted assassination, former FBI agent Marie Mitchell flees with her young twin sons to the Caribbean island of Martinique, where her mother lives. She begins a letter to her boys, "I'm writing this to give you honest answers to the questions I hazard to guess you'll ask while you're growing up. I'm writing it all down here just in case I'm not around to tell you."

The letter takes the reader back through time to chronicle Marie's childhood in Harlem, her career as a Fed
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Sarah
DNF at 20%. I wanted to love this--the blurb sounds amazing--but I was too bored by the time I quit to have patience to get to the actual story. There was too much time spent on the main character's childhood and early life, and no real plot had yet emerged.

I DNF ruthlessly and usually don't have a lot of patience for books that don't suck me in pretty quickly, but based on other reviews it seems likely this book will be rewarding for readers who are more patient than I am.

*I received a free
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La Tonya  Jordan
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: GO On Girl Book Club!
Shelves: good-read
The beginning of this book drags. After the first 100 pages, it starts to get interesting. I like Marie and Helene characters. The complete idea of black women spies is captivating. For Marie to live out Helene dream of being a spy to make the world a better place to live is the fantasy. She later found out she was only being complicit in making the world more unsafe with the United States of America's blessing. She takes this disappointment and starts a journal to leave for her twin son's in ...more
Karen (idleutopia_reads)
Immersing myself into the world of American Spy was an experience unlike any other. It was thrilling from beginning to end. I loved the tapestry of words that Lauren Wilkinson created. She had me hooked from the beginning with her story of a suburban mom who one night gets attacked in her own home and kills the intruder. So begins a story that takes us towards an escape and flashes back to tell the story of Marie Mitchell, an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s pulled into an intricate web ...more
Heather Fineisen
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Centers on the backstory of a black female spy and how she ended up in the present time with a threat to her and her twin boys. The book is really strong and well written until the end when action gets lively but the storyline putters. This is a debut author to keep an eye on.

Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley
Lulu
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Misleading synopsis, but the story we did get was pretty good. Not the action packed thriller I was expecting. More of a memoir.
Rachel | mrs.bennett.reads
I'll start by saying that this book wasn't great. I wanted it to be, but it was not. However, it gets 3 stars for me for some really refreshing originality.

One of the reasons I was so excited to pick this book up in the first place is the unique premise. It's the 1980s, and Marie is a black female FBI agent with a troubled past and big ambition. She's not really getting anywhere in her FBI career and ends up working for the CIA in Africa, trying to de-stabilize an authoritarian, Communist
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Alison Hardtmann
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book


Marie is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant, knowledgeable and dedicated. But it's 1986 and Marie is a young black woman, so the FBI doesn't know what to do with her, leaving her to fill out paperwork and cultivate assets she'll never be allowed to use. She's seen a family friend sidelined and she's intent on avoiding his fate. So when the CIA comes knocking with an assignment that sounds too good to be true, she's cautious, but very interested. And so Marie becomes involved
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Taryn Pierson
I’ve never gotten into spy novels because I don’t really want more alpha white male energy in my life, but THIS spy novel is about a black woman working undercover in the 1980s! Now that I can get behind. Marie is sent to Burkina Faso to undermine the Communist leader Thomas Sankara, but her goals get clouded when she gets to know the man behind the image. The book is written as a letter to her children, which is a really effective device, and I swear I couldn’t tell from one page to the next ...more
Jessica Woodbury
3.5 stars. As promised, this is a spy novel driven less by plot and more by character. It's unique and interesting and I want so many more books like it in the world.

For this specific story and me, we didn't quite see eye to eye because I wanted *more* character. I wanted to get deeper into who Marie was and how she felt. But I'll be looking for more from Wilkinson.
Jan
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A different kind of spy story—light on suspense, thanks in part to a choppy timeline, but with an interesting story of an African-American woman coming to terms with her family background and her career choices. Not everything works, but this debut novel shows an author worth watching. Rounding up from 3.5 stars.
Ka’leneReads
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audibles
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Lauren Wilkinson earned an MFA in fiction and literary translation from Columbia University, and has taught writing at Columbia and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was a 2013 Center for Fiction Emerging Writer’s Fellow, and has also received support from the MacDowell Colony and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Lauren grew up in New York and lives on the Lower East Side. American ...more
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“The first few moments after you meet someone are precious, because the data on them is plentiful and your own subjectivity has yet to interfere.” 7 likes
“Thomas Sankara renamed the country Burkina Faso—the Land of Incorruptible People—and wrote the national anthem.” 1 likes
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