It’s not every day that you are invited to take part in the launch of a digital publisher. I am proud, honored, and so happy to feature The Righteous Spy, the first novel by the wonderful Verve Books team, on Chocolate’n’Waffles today. Thank you for providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for letting me share your steps into this great book world, and congratulations!
Title: The Righteous Spy
Author: Merle Nygate
Date of publication: October 2018
Publisher: Verve Books
WINNER OF THE 2017 LITTLE BROWN / UEA CRIME FICTION AWARD
Innocent lives are at risk. But who is the real enemy…?
Eli Amiran is Mossad’s star spy runner and the man responsible for bringing unparalleled intelligence to the Israeli agency. Now, he’s leading an audacious operation in the UK that feeds his ambition but threatens his conscience.
The British and the Americans have intel Mossad desperately need. To force MI6 and the CIA into sharing their priceless information, Eli and his maverick colleague Rafi undertake a risky mission to trick their allies: faking a terrorist plot on British soil.
But in the world of espionage, the game is treacherous, opaque and deadly…
No matter how much I enjoy crime fiction, spy novels have had a hard time convincing me. I can count on one hand the number of action thrillers that have opened my eyes on subjects bigger than the number of ammo you need to get rid of a guy or a village. I don’t think I have ever been 1) interested 2) engrossed in an espionage maze. I could only picture James Bond and roll my eyes. Until The Righteous Spy.
There is so much to say about this novel that I have no idea where to start. Talk about a comprehensive and useful report! I would make a terrible agent. Let’s take the genre first. I was expecting gun blazing in every chapter, testosterone springing off the pages to hit me in the face with big muscles and a weak plot only designed to make the good appear good and the bad … well, bad. Now, I know this is a cliché and I should have more faith in authors. Merle Nygate simply took all those ideas from my mind and threw them out the window.
I don’t want to call The Righteous Spy a mere spy novel. It covers so much ground that it would be diminishing its power. I want to call it a thought-provoking masterpiece. Yes, just like this.
You see, when I started reading, images jumped at me. France has had its lot of terrorist attacks, we have been fed many truths and lies, we barely know what actually happens between the countries that compose our planet. Behind the cosy curtain of our lives lie the shadows working in silence. For the greater good. Which greater good? This question has no answer. Or rather, a million subjective answers. Do I feel bad that I got scared of reading when I realized the plans that were awaiting a key character and how easy it was to assemble every piece of the puzzle for it to happen? I don’t think so. It is scary. But the aim of this novel is not to take us deeper into the cacophony of what our world has become. I believe the author tried to give us keys to understand, or at least, try to understand just how intricate relations between nations are, just how easy it is to interpret events, words, silences. What does it entails to be a spy? How one second can change everything? I don’t want to make this a current politics info-dump post. This book is fictional, but it holds enough authenticity to reach out to the reader, take their thoughts to another level while maintaining the right level of entertainment. It takes a skilled writer to juggle such heavy subjects and create a riveting take on who the righteous are. Don’t ask me. I don’t have the answer.
The Righteous Spy had me intrigued with the idea of setting a false attack to get information. This was so plausible I cringed and wondered if … no … how many times it had happened. From the start, we are fed information from people without completely knowing which side they are on, which side we, as readers, are supposed to be on! I wondered if it was worth it, I cared about the effects, I was appealed by the different aspects of the structure of international politics, and most of all, I wanted to know all about the actors working on this play. Because at the heart of this steady-paced, calculated web of need-to-know plot, it is the characters who matter. What they do. What choices they make. The reasons behind their reasoning. I couldn’t get enough information on everyone. As the clock reminded me of a fatal deadline, I wanted to skin the protagonists and see through them. Merle Nygate did a wonderful job with her characterization. It takes courage, research, and a great deal of talent to turn what could easily be mistaken as a ‘guy’ book into a deep and engrossing tale of rights and wrongs.
Do I have opinion on what happened? Of course, I do. Did I manage to find a character to care about? Definitely! There is more to those spies than poker faces. And just like in real life, there are more than spies hidden between those pages. I was fascinated by the cold thinking and the compartmentalizing thing I can’t do, mixed with feelings, beliefs, and everything that makes a person who they are. I was torn and left wondering about humankind.
Did I see the ending coming? I had a gut-feeling. I couldn’t read fast enough to find out whether I was right. My feelings were all over the place and I found myself looking at the final page, sighing. I can’t say the ending is satisfying from a human point of view! I would say it perfectly fits the novel and mirrors the era we live in. I couldn’t have hoped for a better one. Do the means justify the end? Betrayals, risks, heart-stopping moments will have you doubt everything. This novel screams DANGER. For a good reason.
I come out of this experience with a better understanding of manipulation (at every damn level! I would suck at it!), eyes fully open and rather breathless as you don’t get to press ‘pause’ and have a break!! This fabulous book is chillingly stunning. Don’t let this ‘serious’ review fool you, you are in for a brilliant reading time. Just make sure your brain is ready for the ride!
Get your copy on Amazon!
Merle Nygate is a screenwriter, script editor, screenwriting lecturer and novelist; she’s
worked on BAFTA winning TV, New York Festival audio drama and written original sitcoms; previously she worked for BBC Comedy Commissioning as well as writing and script editing across multiple genres. Most recently, Merle completed her first espionage novel which won the Little Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award. It was described by the judge as ‘outstanding’.