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The Amateur by Robert Littell
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The Amateur (original 1981; edition 2007)

by Robert Littell

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2049102,755 (3.26)1
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 fiancée in cold blood and Heller learns that the Agency has decided not to pursue the terrorists responsible, his life takes an abrupt turn. He was not a blackmailer, but he will force the CIA's hand. He was not an assassin, but he will penetrate the Iron Curtain with the intent to kill. Driven by an obsessive need for revenge, targeted for elimination by the CIA itself, his chances of success are one in a million. In a world of professional killers, Charlie Heller is The Amateur.… (more)
Member:claudecat
Title:The Amateur
Authors:Robert Littell
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2007), Paperback, 256 pages
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The Amateur by Robert Littell (1981)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Looking for a used Jonathan Littell "Kindly Ones," and found Robert on the same shelf. Looked interesting, is interesting: murderous terrorists in Germany in the early 1980s who kill the fiance of a CIA cryptoanalyst in a Munich action. I believe revenge will be the continuing story; I've just started.
... and all in all, the book is not so great, many improbable action scenes, but the book definitely has heart and good, interesting people. And not a bad overall ending. Ah, it kept my interest. ( )
  tmph | Sep 13, 2020 |
Tried to read this years ago. I picked it up because I had enjoyed Mother Russia, but this was very different, and the idea of a whole book about this guy's painstaking plans for vengeance just didn't appeal. ( )
  FlorenceArt | Sep 25, 2014 |
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 |
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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 fiancée in cold blood and Heller learns that the Agency has decided not to pursue the terrorists responsible, his life takes an abrupt turn. He was not a blackmailer, but he will force the CIA's hand. He was not an assassin, but he will penetrate the Iron Curtain with the intent to kill. Driven by an obsessive need for revenge, targeted for elimination by the CIA itself, his chances of success are one in a million. In a world of professional killers, Charlie Heller is The Amateur.

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