Tag Archives: espionage

Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station

pollifax chinaI really like the idea of a woman who qualifies for a senior discount working undercover for the CIA, but Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station is a book that’s easy to put down. In fact, it took me months to read, though the prose is easy enough. The characters just didn’t grab me, nor did the plot.

Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station relates the story of CIA operative Mrs. Pollifax whom the CIA sends on a tour of China to work with another (unknown for much of the book) spy to help rescue an inmate of a Chinese labor camp. Like an Agatha Christie book, an assorted group is assembled and it’s all very gentile. Only the readers, Mrs. Pollifax and two others know that a big adventure is to come. It’s definitely a story Raymond Chandler would hate, as his essay “Simple Art of Murder” indicates. It’s got the tone of The Triple Petunia Murder Case, or Inspector Pinchbottle to the Rescue. In other words, it’s old fashioned and stodgy. The ending has surprises, but they come out of the blue and the pacing of the end is off. It’s as if the author got tired or a deadline crept up on her and she had to end immediately so she could start the next such story.

All in all, it’s not a great book, but not a bad one either.

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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in fiction


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The Art of Intelligence

art intelligenceHenry Crumpton’s The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service chronicles the author’s career with the CIA. Crumpton started in the CIA working in African countries recruiting in country sources and went on to lead the CIA’s work in Afghanistan. Although many specifics are left out, no doubt to protect people and our various missions, Crumpton gives readers a realistic picture of clandestine service how important trust is, how affiliates are recruited, how brave CIA operatives and those they recruit really are.

Crumption’s writing is solid and the book feels like the real deal. I was most interested in his stories of recruiting local people abroad and American business leaders, exchange students and others who would cooperate with the CIA when they traveled overseas. While Crumpton never names names, it did seem like either Steven Jobs or more likely, in my opinion, Bill Gates has collaborated with them. I also got a better sense of how important CIA spouses and families were. Not only do they sacrifice more than most, but the spouses can help out to a certain extent.

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in non-fiction


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