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The Amateur by Robert Littell
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The Amateur (edition 2003)

by Robert Littell

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162773,595 (3.26)1
Member:Jarratt
Title:The Amateur
Authors:Robert Littell
Info:Overlook Hardcover (2003), Hardcover, 252 pages
Collections:2013
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The Amateur by Robert Littell

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The Amateur is a 1980 cold war spy novel that starts out with a very interesting premise. An innocent American tourist is murdered by a terrorist and the entire incident is captured on Munich television. Ironically, her fiance works for the CIA, but he is an early computer nerd who works as a cryptographer and has no experience in field work or tradecraft. As he becomes more and more depressed he realizes that the only thing that will alleviate his suicidal spiral is the death of the three terrorists and by his hand. Although the CIA is reluctant to send an untrained agent into the field, he manages to "persuade" them. This first part of the novel is really quite good. It was interesting to read about the primitive precautions (take the ribbon out of the printer and put it in the safe!) and the visual analysis of crates, bundles and containers.

However, once Charles Heller goes undercover the novel abandons any hope of realism and descends into a comic book adventure. Heller has the most incredible luck from the moment he steps across the border into Czechoslovakia. There are fortuitous wardrobe swaps, a handy tour bus, a pet shop owner who speaks English, a silly Shakespeare authorship seminar in Prague (!!!), a convenient elevator operator, not to forget some really fabulous deaths. Yet buried in this mishmash are a few gems like the character of Uncle Ludovic. He is, unfortunately, one of the few genuine characters in a list of fat men, unnecessary English tourists, uninteresting villains, and a heroine who is a direct descendant of Mrs. Malaprop. The first five or six times she gets the cliche wrong is amusing; the next twenty times is tedious.

I actually enjoyed the novel, even with the improbable second half. I checked my brain at the door of the bus and hopped on for the ride. ( )
  Liz1564 | Apr 16, 2014 |
Awful. The whole thing's based on one massive coincidence. It's silly, the dialogue's overbearing and unrealistic, and the omniscient point of view is jarring. ( )
  Jarratt | Feb 28, 2013 |
Robert Littell's spy stories vary somewhat in quality. This story of cryptography, terrorism, murder and revenge is a solid B- in 'my' book! ( )
  jastbrown | May 18, 2011 |
Just have never gotten into Littell's books, even though he is wonderfully praised by all blurbers.
  wfzimmerman | May 25, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143038141, Paperback)

A spy thriller classic from the author of The Company

Before Robert Littell vaulted onto the bestseller lists with The Company, The Amateur, which has been long out of print, established him as a contemporary master of the espionage thriller. In this sleek and murderous novel, Charlie Heller is an ace cryptographer for the CIA, a quiet man in a quiet back-office job. But when his fiancée is murdered by terrorists and the Agency decides not to pursue her killers, Heller takes matters into his own hands. The fact that he is an amateur makes him all the more dangerous. Mind-blowing in its intelligence, pulse-pounding in its suspense, The Amateur is a stunner.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In this thriller, Charlie Heller is an ace cryptographer for the Company. He's a quiet man with a quiet job in a back office. But when terrorists shoot his fiancee in cold blood and Heller learns that the Agency has decided not to pursue them, his life takes an abrupt turn.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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