Sunday, January 14, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Seven-Sided Spy, Hannah Carmack
This was an interesting and unexpected read and, consequently, a bit difficult to review. It's really hard to explain without giving much away. During the Cold War, a group of CIA agents is captured by the KGB and experimented on. They escape but get trapped in a state park, leading to a standoff with three KGB agents.

The synopsis makes it seem like the majority of the story will be these two groups of agents matching wits, but there's really not a lot of plot here.There are a ton of flashbacks. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'd say half the book is flashbacks to the agents' previous missions, which aren't even that detailed. As a result, the story is so choppy that I felt adrift most of the read.

The main problem is that there are too many characters for the story to focus on--at least eight. Everyone has code names and real names, and the narration flops between them, so it's sometimes hard to keep track. More than that, though, is that they all get points of view. In fact, some scenes even seemed omniscient, switching between characters' thoughts. Despite all these characters having points of view, it was so hard to get a read on their motivation. Okay, the CIA agents want to get away from the KGB, but they don't do anything about it in the present, and in the flashbacks, their motivations are even murkier. Why is anyone doing what they're doing? The synopsis gave me the impression that Diana is the main character, but after reading the whole book, I still barely have an idea of who she is or what her relationship with the KGB agent was like.

As far as the editing goes, there were many little typos or errors, such as comma splices or capitalizing the first word after a comma. I'm attuned to that sort of stuff anyway, but it felt like this manuscript needed another run-through to catch those things. The writing is decent and flows well, but some of the phrasing is awkward.

It's not that this wasn't an enjoyable read--I definitely liked aspects--but it was frustrating one. I think there are a lot of good ideas here but that the execution is lacking. I'd probably read more from Carmack in the future, but I don't think I'd recommend this to anyone except readers who really like spy novels.

Thanks to Hannah Carmack, NineStar Press, and NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

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