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Miernik Dossier by Charles McCarry

Miernik Dossier (original 1973; edition 2007)

by Charles McCarry

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Title:Miernik Dossier
Authors:Charles McCarry
Info:Publisher Unknown (2007), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The Miernik Dossier by Charles McCarry (1973)


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I love McCarry's writing and this one does not disappoint. The road trip depicted in this book starts in Europe and end up in North Africa. Quite a strange cast of characters each spying on each other. ( )
  EctopicBrain | Dec 4, 2012 |
Charles McCarry is a master of the spy novel. In this novel he introduces his readers to Paul Christopher, an American agent. What I think makes this book stand out is the device McCarry uses to tell the story, a dossier of one of the characters. Using this format allows the story to be told from numerous perspectives. ( )
  cacky | May 28, 2011 |
Certainly above average spy fiction, constructed as an agglomeration of field notes, diary entries, transcripts of interviews, surreptitious tapings: all designed to advance the story while conveying maximum ambiguity. In books like this, relatively complicated mousetrap fictions, it’s amazing how fragile the illusion can be; a single slip, whether a typo or a momentary lapse of memory on the part of the author, can shatter the sense of verisimilitude. For example, at one point, a date is given as 1966, when the context clearly indicates that it should be 1956. I’m convinced it’s a typo. Yet, there’s just a chance that the date could be 1966, and, if it is, it’s not hard for the reader to construct an alternate interpretation of an important secondary character. Regardless, the suspension of disbelief is dissolved and the reader is just a little bit more mistrustful everything that comes next. ( )
  jburlinson | Feb 13, 2010 |
Excellent and very enjoyable spy novel. The conceit of the story is that the book is a file of documents shared with a Congressional oversight committee that has asked to see a 'typical' operation. The dossier contains reports from principal characters, transcripts from recorded conversations, background documents, cables between American officials, and intercepted messages between operatives of other countries. This structure neatly allows McCarry to set precise boundaries on unreliable narration; where he wants, he can have separate narrative voices corroborate key pieces of information -- or, at other points, characters can offer pointedly different accounts of the same events. Ultimately, the story is less complex and ambiguous than I had expected; if you're paying attention, it's not hard to figure out what is happening -- but I found the denouement unexpectedly moving. ( )
  bezoar44 | Nov 23, 2009 |
Charles McCarry may not be as well known as some of the masters of the spy lit genre, but his work has been every bit as interesting and entertaining as any of the bigger names for over three decades. In The Miernik Dossier, first released in 1973, McCarry introduces American spook Paul Christopher.

The book is supposed to be a file of a "complete picture of typical operation" requested by a Congressional chairman (remember, it's 1973). This dossier consists of memos, reports from field agents and their case officers, transcripts of post-operation interviews, and intercepts of Soviet transmissions.

Set in 1959, the book begins at the UN HQ in Geneva where Christopher holds some unspecified cover job. The UN is rife with representatives of national spy agencies. In addition to Christopher, there's a Brit and a French spy - and possibly others.

Christopher's active social group (they appear to all be in their late 20's) includes members of the British and French spookeries and an enchantingly beautiful and sensuous Russian as we almost certainly learn later as well as a Sudanese Muslim prince and Tadeusz Miernik, a Pole of uncertain provenance. The book centers on the efforts of Christopher and Nigel Collins (the British spy) to figure out if Miernik is a Polish spy run by the Soviets or really just a strange self-doubting low-level Polish diplomat.

McCarry sends them all together on an unlikely journey to deliver a new Cadillac to the prince's father, the ruler of Sudan. It sounds absurd, but somehow it works. McCarry is brilliant at describing characters and situations. The reader joins the other characters in their repugnance and annoyance at Miernik (even his sister, brought out of Czechoslovakia by Christopher, agrees). Ilona Bentley fairly oozes sensuality. Christopher is the epitome of the cool, accomplished professional. In the Sudan, Christopher, et al are drawn into the middle of a fight against Arab Muslim terrorist group backed by the Soviets (remember, this book was published in 1973 about events set in 1959).

Even when McCarry drifts off course, he excels. A bar scene in Naples involving former Waffen SS officers toying with their violin-playing waiter (apparently a concentration camp survivor) is masterful, if entirely unnecessary to the rest of the book.

I think what I most enjoyed was the decided lack of clear answers, which strikes me as entirely realistic. Think spies are ever entirely certain of anything important? I don't; they live in a house of mirrors. Christopher moves back and forth between thinking that Miernik is just an oddly gross Pole with some admittedly unusual talents to being convinced Miernik is working for the Soviets.

In a recent NYT story, Alan Furst that listed the Miernik Dossier as one of his top five favorite spy works. (The others: Our Man in Havana (Penguin Classics) by Graham Greene, The Levanter by Eric Ambler, The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré, and Moura: The Dangerous Life of the Baroness Budberg by Nina Berberova (as Furst notes Moura is not actually a spy novel, but is rather nonfiction written by a novelist). I would add McCarry's brilliant Tears of Autumn: A Paul Christopher Novel (Paul Christopher Novels) to that list.

As well-written and entertaining a spy novel as you will find anywhere, but don't look for tidy endings. McCarry is the best American spy novelist. Tip-top recommendation. ( )
1 vote dougwood57 | Aug 29, 2009 |
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The attached dossier is submitted to the Committee in response to the request by its Chairman for "a complete picture of a typical operation".
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451160649, Mass Market Paperback)

In The Miernik Dossier, five international agents embark on a car trip in a Cadillac, traveling from Switzerland to the Sudan. Among them is Tadeusz Miernik, the shy and bumbling Polish scientist who might be the leader of a terror force that could set the Cold War aflame.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:59 -0400)

A small group of international agents embark on a car trip from Switzerland to the Sudan, a journey marked by the actions of one of the travelers, who might be the leader of a terrorist group responsible for starting the Cold War.

(summary from another edition)

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