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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
A Spy Trip is an espionage thriller satire written by James McVan. The lot of the secret agent hadn’t changed much since the days when the Iron Curtain separated the East from the West. While the subject of much glamour and excitement when treated in films, books and television, the reality was really quite different. Spies lived generally isolated and rather sordid lives. They were far from home and often prey to the loneliness that drove them into the arms of the sex workers who seemed to haunt the same environs as the spooks. Mark Dwan felt nothing at all like a 007 as he went to meet one of his contacts on the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine. The passwords they spoke seemed contrived and ludicrous; the few minutes they spent in uneasy recognition of each other’s half-life seemed even harder for Dwan to comprehend after hearing that Vitaly Morison had committed suicide not long after their meeting. The two years Dwan had spent working with the service seemed already an uninspiring lifetime, but it was all about to change -- and drastically, incomprehensibly, so.
James McVan’s A Spy Trip will instantly appeal to fans of John le Carré’s early spy novels. They’ll get the sense of dislocation and alienation that both John le Carré's Alec Leamas from The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and McVan’s Mark Dwan feel. The disparity between the glamour of a James Bond-type spy, dressed to the nines and bearing a literal stockpile of deadly gadgets, and the real-life mix of danger and dullness experienced by actual agents is highlighted so well both in John le Carré's early work and in this satirical offering. I especially loved when suddenly, unpredictably, Mark Dwan’s world becomes very, very strange. Following as he trips his way across the globe is grand fun. McVan’s plot is ingenious and sly, and his characters are finely honed and believable. A Spy Trip is most highly recommended.