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Once a Spy (Spy #1)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,676 Ratings  ·  237 Reviews
Drummond Clark was once a spy of legendary proportions.  Now Alzheimer’s disease has taken its toll and he’s just a confused old man who’s wandered away from home, waiting for his son to fetch him. 
When Charlie Clark takes a break from his latest losing streak at the track to bring Drummond back to his Brooklyn home, they find it blown sky high—and then bullets start fly
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Mike (the Paladin)
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: action, thriller, spy-fi
You know when I picked this book up it was sort of a , "well it looks a little interesting. I'll see how it goes" decision. I had my reservations. I like good action reads, I like GOOD spy fiction especially if it's a successful bleed over into what can be called "Spy/fi".

I mean we are starting off with a ne'er-do-well son with "daddy issues" (not in the traditional meaning of that phrase where a young woman likes older men [as it happens I still haven't met one of those]). His father was always
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book! The pace was great....never any slow spots and the plot had enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. The father/son bonding dynamic adding a nice emotional component, and provided some depth to both characters. The humor was fantastic, the technical details interesting, and the espionage tactics constantly surprising. I wasn't sure if all the convoluted ciphers were tongue-in-cheek or actually legit, but they were entertaining either way. This is the kind of book ...more
Rick F.
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
ONCE A SPY-by Keith Thomson a Thriller- with sidesplitting dark humor about a degenerate Gambler and his former top spy father- who has early onset Alzheimer's - who are on the run- this book is brilliant- superb characters, plot, dialogue and a sensitivity to the terrible disease- yet somehow almost every page had me laughing out loud or unable to guess what will happen next- A classic in the making!!! Keith Thomson is an author who is a true treasure!!! Quite simply- this book is as fine a boo ...more
Julie Davis
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book so much that I wanted to try the audio version. The narrator sounds as if you are sitting by a campfire with a veteran grandpa spy telling the story. And that actually suits the story to me, considering the subject matter. I'm enjoying this quite a bit.

Full review below.


I came across this thanks to Mystery Scene magazine where I have found many great recommendations.

Imagine a super spy managing to live long enough to develop Alzheimer's. What happens when he may in
Paul Pessolano
Feb 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Charlie Clark's father, Drummond Clark, was konce probably the best secret spy in the world. Today, Drummond Clark is a former spy suffering from Alzheimers.

Charlie thought his father was an appliance salesman that paid very little attention to his son, Charlie's mother, a doting mother, was killed while Charlie was still a young boy. Well, maybe not, could it be that his mother was a spy also and her death had to be arranged by the government?

Charlie finds himself, and his father, in a fight fo
Gene Gee
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
My review is simply going to be about my reaction to this book. EXTREMELY WELL DONE> A compelling page turner AFTER the first 50 pages or so. (I am guessing about the number of pages having read it on my Kindle)

Never trust anyone who says "Trust me", but trust me when I tell you it is worth the slow beginning. As a matter of fact, I would suggest that you rest and relax and enjoy the slower paced beginning because when the story takes off, it takes off like a shot barely allowing you to catc
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller
A fast, fun read. The premise works well - Charlie doesn't realize his father, Drummond, is CIA, meanwhile Drummond is suffering from Alzheimer's. Throw in a few bad guys and mayhem ensues. Short chapters and cliffhangers give the book some urgency, but the relationship between Charlie and Drummond is what kept me turning the pages. Of course, you have to suspend some disbelief over the gunfighting scenes (and one helicopter ride), but it is worth a read.
Mark Pepp
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a surprisingly good read that my mother passed along to me. She found it in the Dollar Stores' books section, and apparently she does find a LOT of very decent books there. This book's author drew me in with funny and suspenseful situations that made for many nights' good entertainment. Looking forward to reading his follow-up novel, Always a Spy.
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spy, light-hearted, funny
Lighthearted FUN adventure

Lighthearted adventure, fast-paced, fun and funny. Great main characters. Clean enough for teens. The timing of dad's episodes is hilarious. Feel-good ending.

Not meant to be a serious spy book!
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Totally intrigued by the plot and characters. Well Narrated by Danny Campbell. Will continue series - recommended.
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wcls
What would happen if Jason Bourne were in the early stages of Alzheimer's...
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spoiled, abandoned
I sure wish I hadn't read the description. Total spoiler. Thanks Goodreads! Oh well, it's at about the same level of story, character, and concept as a decent but not great network TV series and I was bored with it anyway. If you pick this up on a spinner rack at the airport, it could be a decent in flight diversion. Provided, of course that you do not read the Goodreads description.
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thomson
finished this one while eating supper, kindle, library loan, good story, 3 stars, i liked it. fun stuff.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well, this is a romping-good-time of a spy novel! It’s fast-faced, humorous at times, interesting, and entertaining. I really liked Thomson’s delivery and will be starting the next book right away!
Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a fun read.
Rhiannon Ryder
May 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The fine folks over a Doubleday recently sent me Once a Spy and it's brand new follow up, Twice a Spy. And what a treat! The hubby and I both ate them up like candy. Let me say, if your looking for an action packed read that can make you cringe and laugh (sometimes at the same moment) then this series is for you.

Once a Spy is the impressive debut novel from author Keith Thomson, who himself isn't too shabby. His resume inludes being a semi-pro baseball player in France, editorial cartoonist for
Radcliff Lance
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Once a Spy had an appealing cover. I was walking through Target and saw the paperback. As I read the premise, I was even more intrigued. I’ve shied away from the “spy” genre quite a bit as of late. Not sure why, I just felt that the action and fun I was looking for wasn’t always there. This novel is cut from a different cloth and I loved it. It was fast paced, thrilling, and comedic in all the right places.

I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time on the premise, since it’s readily available if
Apr 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, audiobook
Drummond Clark is a retired appliance salesman with Alzheimer’s disease. His son, Charlie Clark, has been betting a little too heavily on the horses and is thousands of dollars in debt to loan sharks. After another losing day at the race track Charlie receives a call that his father was found wandering the streets of Brooklyn and could he please come and pick him up. He does and as the two approach Drummond’s home they hear a loud explosion as the house blows up. Charlie thinks the loan sharks a ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I want to hold off on final judgment of this book until I have read the sequel "Twice a Spy", but as a stand-alone the ending of "once a Spy" felt rushed and left me wanting. Book 2 picks up right where this one left off and the teaser for Twice a Spy, was enticing. I did enjoy Keith Thomson's 1st offering enough to want to read the sequel so that's a good sign. Once a Spy is an action packed story almost from the start. Charlie Clark is a professional of the racetrack, any racetrack with a bett ...more
Timothy Bazzett
Mar 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I feel a little bad about giving ONCE A SPY only three stars, but that does indicate "liked it," and I did. I just couldn't make myself love it, and not because it's a bad book, but because it is so NOT my kind of book. It is probably the ideal "beach book," something you'd consume with a giant bag of chips and super-size slurpee. But I don't go to the beach and don't much like chips, so ... I liked the hero-concept of a retired CIA agent with early stage Alzheimer's, but that rather unique devi ...more
Craig Pittman
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
An entertaining book about a serious topic, Once a Spy revolves around an unlikely duo of heroes: a one-time superspy now suffering from Alzheimer's and his deadbeat gambling-addicted son. When it turns out someone's trying to kill them, they have to go on the run and figure out who's after them. Also, the son has to figure out just who his old man is, because he always thought his dad was a boring appliance salesman. Turns out the dull drone was just a cover.

The ex-spy has moments of lucidity w
Drummond Clark is a retired appliance salesman who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His son Charlie is plays the horses and has just lost a huge amount on a “sure-thing” winner who came in second. He now owes his bookie a fortune, which he doesn’t have. Charlie is contacted by Drummond’s Social Worker, when Drummond is declared unfit to take care of himself. As Charlie starts to make plans to place Drummond in an appropriate mental health care facility as well as stay out of reach of h ...more
Leslie Stovring
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was a very pleasant surprise. Every once in a while a book just reaches out and grabs you and you really can't put your finger on why. Once a Spy was this month's mystery book club selection, again one I typically would not have picked myself. I started Saturday morning and it grabbed me and by late that night (early Sunday actually) I finished it.

The story centers around Charlie, a unabashed lover of the ponies. You can see within him the organized mind and one who is very observant
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: thriller
This story focuses on a father and son duo. While the son is a no-good loser who borrows money from the Russian mob to bet on horse races, his father is a retired spy. Not that the son knows anything about this, at least at first. The son thinks the father a mildly-successful appliance salesman. The trick that makes the story fairly unique is that the father is suffering from Alzheimer's. His mind and memory comes and goes throughout the story. The author does a good job of tying the father's Al ...more
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysteries
Charlie Clark is a habitual loser at the local race track. He visits his father once a year, and otherwise, he has little to do with dad. So, when he gets a call to come and fetch his father from a local senior center, he thinks nothing of it. What he does not know is that Drummond Clark, his father, was once a spy of legendary proportions. Now Alzheimer’s disease has taken most of his memories, but occasionally, he remembers bits and pieces of his former life. When they arrive at his father's h ...more
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
4 stars for entertainment value. You must totally suspend disbelief, but once you do - what a rollicking ride! Charlie Clark has a small gambling problem, which has left him broke and in debt to the Russian mob. He gets a call that his dad- widowed and suffering from Alzheimer's - has been found, wandering Brooklyn in his pajamas.

When he gets his dad home, the house explodes. Charlie immediately thinks the Russian mob is over-reacting to his debt, but he is totally surprised his Dad's reaction.
Cary Stanford
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Four stars is generous when compared to baldacci etc. This is my first Thompson read and hehehehehe exceeded my expectations. His style is simple, use descriptive language is usually kept to minimum, and unless Thompson writes like his namesake Hunter, that's for the best. I have literally read over 600 books in the espiange genre and still i found his plot refreshing. His character development is varies fro good to very good, I was authenticaly rooting for the "David' in the story to slay Golia ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub, mystery
I think this is my first spy book and I wasn't a fan of this one. Despite all the killing, hunting down of people nothing really happens. There was no plot for the first half of the book or if there was I missed it. Charlie isn't likable and we don't get enough info on Drummond to have any sort of emotional connect to him. So aside from not wanting the MCs to die, I didn't care and wasn't invested in them. For me, basically nothing happens in this book but writing action scenes or getting to the ...more
Christa Van
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Drummond Clark is the early onset Alzheimer father of Charlie whose once a year phone call satisfies his need for contact with his father. Charlie is, perhaps, not your model son. He has a gambling problem and owes big bucks to a Russian mobster. He is looking for a way out of his predicament when he gets a call from a social worker. His father has wandered off and will need care. When father and son get together, they start an action packed memorable week where they are being hunted by Drummond ...more
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Keith Thomson has been a semi-pro baseball player in France an editorial cartoonist for Newsday and a screenwriter. Now a resident of Alabama, he writes about intelligence and other matters for The Huffington Post. His novels include Once a Spy, a New York Times Best Seller, Twice a Spy and Pirates of Pensacola.
More about Keith Thomson

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