Friday, May 13, 2011

Twice A Spy has one improbability too many

Book 52: Twice A Spy by Keith Thomson 

In some thrillers the reader is asked to accept a certain level of improbability.  The problem with Keith Thomson's Twice A Spy is that it is filled with more improbabilities than the reader -- at least this one -- are willing to support.

The first improbability, introduced in Thomson's first novel, Once A Spy, is that although former CIA agent Drummond Clark has Alzheimer's he can continue to function at a high level. His skills as an agent kicking in to meet the demands of each perilous situation. He just can't remember a damn thing.

In this sequel, Clark and his son, Charlie, remain on the lam from the CIA who want to kill Clark because they're afraid his Alzheimer's will lead him to divulge sensitive information about an undercover operations he once operated.

Functioning at a high level means, among other things, that Clark can escape from almost any situation  even though he can't remember what he had for breakfast.  Functioning-despite-Alzheimer's is improbability number one. The Clarks' ability to escape, escape again and, yes, escape yet again is improbability number two.

The third improbability -- and this is where the scales tipped for me -- is that Charlie, a horse track habitue and general wastrel, seems to have his father's skills when it comes to espionage.  Whether this is due to a particular genetic strain or osmosis isn't clear.

What's clear to me is that Charlie's abilities, which are clearly going to be the focus of future books, are one improbability too many.

Thomson's books are entertaining, but there are so many thrillers that are better, which don't stretch our credulity to the breaking point, that I can't make the case for Twice A Spy.

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