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The Mulberry Bush by Charles McCarry

The Mulberry Bush

by Charles McCarry

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I can't believe I've been a fan of spy thrillers for decades and had never heard of Charles McCarry. I came across a review of one of his older novels a short time ago, sought it out, and picked a different one off the stack at the local library since my original target wasn't available. If the rest of his catalog is as well-done as 'The Mulberry Bush', I think I've discovered a writer that'll keep me busy for awhile.

As you might expect in a book written by an ex-CIA field operative, the spycraft in Mulberry Bush seems impeccable and the actions of the characters are realistic. The plot, which involves the intent of the son of a disgraced CIA agent to exact revenge on the agency, is complex, many-layered, sexy, and exciting. The dialogue is crisp and very realistic and the conclusion may or may not be what you expect. It's an interesting way to wrap things up, no matter what.

I've read many, many spy novels through the years, many of which were written by ex-practitioners, and am constantly struck by a few things: these guys and gals are really smart, everyone has an agenda, there are endless physical and mental challenges, and I could never handle the stress. There are certainly black and white areas in their type of work, but the largest acreage is gray and it takes special types of people to excel.

I can't even describe how excited I am to start exploring the rest of McCarry's work! ( )
  gmmartz | Apr 27, 2017 |
A cyinical, compelling story about generations of spies and revolutionaries. The past, present, and future is interwoven in a ceaseless game ultimately controlled by Washington and Moscow. Damaged men and women are sent out to win whatever game is currently in play; principles are left home with mothers and children. Some hold grudges for their entire lives having lost. Violence and murder take place just often enough to make fear and paranoia constant. Adding to the foul mix is the hope of revenge, which is toxic to loyalty and institutional identity. The ending is both appropriate, on one level, and confusing and unsatisfying on another. The book calls into question why anyone sane would ever cede his or her life to such amorality. ( )
  neddludd | Mar 18, 2016 |
Charles McCarry is not for me. I have read a few of his books, and my reaction has been mixed. It seems to me he is trying too hard to write a cerebral spy novel. Mulberry Bush is a bit different because it adds South America of all places into the mix of the usual USA v Russia wrestling match. The first third is quite good, a nice set-up. Our hero is the son of a failed CIA operative, a brilliant guy who pranked the wrong people in the Agency. He pays for it big time.

Junior is a brilliant guy also who has an ear for languages and knows just about every tongue spoken in the Middle East and the suburbs, and he's well educated, smart, handsome etc. etc. Planning to get his revenge for his Dad's forced separation from the CIA, he worms his way into the Agency and is very successful in his Middle East assignments, meaning he doesn't get killed and he handles his agents well. But he goes through a rough patch and is assigned as a contact for a low level, but gorgeous Argentinian government employee, Luz. Soon they are having sex 5 or 6 times a day (I kid you not), and then he meets her family. And some Russians.

And things start to slow down - not for our hero, rather for the reader. He meets some interesting characters including a retired agent, and rather coincidentally his father's former boss, and a Russian priest with whom he has long walks on Roosevelt Island in the Potomac. And Luz's "guardian" . And all of a sudden the story is about events that took place years ago in the revolutionary days. Was Luz's Mom really thrown out of an airplane because Dad wouldn't reveal the names of members of his gang of terrorists/revolutionaries? And eventually there is a very long climactic explanation of What Really Happened.. Though there are four brief action scenes with gunfire, explosions, knifing, and a grenade, a lot more than I recall from previous McCarry books, the bottomline is that I got to about the 75% point in the book and just wanted it to end so I could read something else. I just didn't care at all what happened in Argentina 20 years ago. The plot seemed rather silly - the son's career ambitions are to embarrass the Agency for the punishment doled out to his father 20 years ago. Get over it. And the characters were all very sad and empty to me, as dead on the inside as many of the victims in the story past and present. ( )
  maneekuhi | Jan 18, 2016 |
Our unnamed protagonist is on a dual mission. He’s an American spy for HQ (Headquarters) which is code for the CIA. On the one hand, he’s very good at his job. On the other, he’s willing to patiently wait years to exact revenge for his father who had been humiliated, railroaded out of the HQ, out of his benefits, and into homelessness years earlier. He finds an unlikely ally in the form of Luz Aguilar, daughter of an Argentinean revolutionary from Buenos Aires, who also holds a grudge against the HQ.

Charles McCarry was a former CIA operative and so he has an in-depth knowledge of the process. He has been feeding credible spy novels to his fans since the 1970s. The protagonist’s relationship with Luz is described as love but seems to be much more about the sexual atmosphere between them. Fortunately, the novel is more about the story line and the narrator’s revenge than about their sexual exploits. The protagonist lacks a name while the remaining characters lack a bit of development, especially within the midsection of the novel. The action is adequate carrying over into a very satisfying ending for the reader. Rating: 3 out of 5. ( )
  FictionZeal | Jan 2, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802124100, Hardcover)

Author of The Tears of Autumn and The Shanghai Factor, Charles McCarry is widely regarded as one of the finest modern espionage novelists. His latest masterpiece, The Mulberry Bush, burns with the fury of the wronged, as personal vendetta and political idealism collide.

In a rose garden in Buenos Aires, an unnamed American spy meets the beautiful daughter of a famous Argentinean revolutionary. He becomes infatuated, and so does she. But he is no ordinary spy—he is an off-the-books lone wolf who spent his first five years working for “Headquarters” hunting terrorists in the Middle East. Unbeknownst to his lenient handlers, he is loyal to a hidden agenda: to avenge his father, who was laughed out of Headquarters many years before. In the sultry young Argentinean, the spy thinks he has found an ally. Like his father, her parents also met a terrible fate. But as his path becomes further entwined with hers, the spy finds himself caught in a perilous web of passions, affiliations, and lies that spans three continents and stretches back to the Cold War.

A potent and seductive novel, The Mulberry Bush explores what happens when the most powerful political motivator is revenge.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 08 Jul 2015 18:21:28 -0400)

Falling in love with a famous Argentinean revolutionary's daughter who he hopes will further his ambition to exact revenge against the handlers who ended his father's career years earlier, a maverick spy is caught in a web of deceit with ties to the Cold War.… (more)

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