[Wilkinson's] first novel starts off with a literal bang, and never once lets up. American Spy is a beautifully paced spy thriller as well as a promising debut from a writer who's not content to rely on the settled tropes of any literary genre ... Wilkinson packs a lot of plot into American Spy ... But Wilkinson handles the several threads in the novel deftly, and she has a real gift for pacing — never once does the book flag or get bogged down, and it's never needlessly complex or confusing ... Wilkinson doesn't shy away from the moral ambiguity of American adventurism in the 1980s, and neither does her unforgettable narrator ... American Spy works on so many levels — it's an expertly written spy thriller as well as a deeply intelligent literary novel that tackles issues of politics, race and gender in a way that's never even close to being heavy-handed or didactic. Above all, it's just so much fun to read ... [American Spy] marks the debut of an immensely talented writer who's refreshingly unafraid to take risks, and has the skills to make those risks pay off.
It’s a relief... that Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy, while embracing ambitions and concerns that don’t always figure highly in the spy genre, is first and foremost a thriller ... Plenty to enjoy on its own terms, then, as a slick, well-observed thriller, but what adds depth are the perspectives offered by the central character ... challenging boundaries is what brave fiction does, and Wilkinson proves confident enough to carry it off. For a debut novel it’s remarkably assured, earning its genre stripes with panache, and addressing thought-provoking issues along the way.
Lauren Wilkinson’s new novel, American Spy, is extraordinary in a lot of ways — most obviously because it places a female African American intelligence officer, Marie Mitchell, at the center of a Cold War tale of political espionage. But also striking is the novel’s deeper recognition that, to some extent, rudimentary tradecraft is something all of her African American characters have learned as an everyday survival skill ... Wilkinson begins with a tense opening that assures readers that American Spy will try its best to deliver action along with edification ... American Spy is a morally nuanced and atmospheric political thriller.
...[a] thrilling debut ... The author...hits her stride in the final sections of the book, which take place in the vibrant new landscapes of Burkina Faso and Ghana ... Wilkinson weaves timely issues into a heart-thumping narrative ... For the novel’s engaging intelligence and serious reckoning with the world’s postwar order, Wilkinson deserves the comparisons to John le Carré she’s already receiving ... she has reinvigorated the genre.
Lauren Wilkinson's new novel, American Spy, is extraordinary in a lot of ways - most obviously because it places a female African-American intelligence officer, Marie Mitchell, at the center of a Cold War tale of political espionage. But also striking is the novel's deeper recognition that, to some extent, rudimentary tradecraft is something all of her African-American characters have learned as an everyday survival skill ... American Spy is a morally nuanced and atmospheric political thriller.
In a sweeping and action-packed story that stretches from Harlem to Martinique and Ouagadougou, the novel never strays too far from the two opposing forces in Marie’s life: her identity as a black American and her consequently vexed relationship with the history of the institutions she serves ... There are shadows of W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness throughout the novel that suggest provocative parallels between spycraft and black life in America. As such, Wilkinson does not graft the matter of race onto the spy novel but rather asks us to think about how being a minority is, in a sense, an act of espionage, a precarious state marked by shifting identities, competing loyalties, and a constant threat of violence ... The literary references throughout the novel are in many ways reflective of one of Wilkinson’s larger ambitions in American Spy: to redefine the spy fiction canon by thinking more expansively about what counts as an espionage novel. Though the novels of Ian Fleming and John le Carré certainly make their appearance, Wilkinson is writing as much in the tradition of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Nella Larsen’s Passing ... At its heart, American Spy is a refreshing take on identity that utilizes the tool kit of spy fiction to remind us of how wily a thing it is—for spies but for the rest of us, too.
Lauren Wilkinson, the author, is only twenty-something, so it is amazing that she could have gathered such wide-ranging experience of these two secretive organizations. She writes plausibly ... Wilkinson has something of [John Updike's] style, too, knowing how to give a story just the right pace with enough twists and turns to encourage the reader to finish it in one sitting. Her ability to create an uncertain mood and a seedy atmosphere is reminiscent of Graham Greene. Lauren Wilkinson is not yet on par with Updike and Greene, but it wouldn’t be surprising if this young, highly talented writer doesn’t get there before too long.
Wilkinson works within the true history of Burkina Faso, blending high-stakes political drama and Marie’s contemplation of the sister she lost and what her own choices will mean for her sons. Appealing in its insightful characterizations, well-plotted action, and rich settings, this should find a large audience.
Doubles as a family drama and offers potent critiques of the United States' cold war policies in Africa. Wilkinson's narrative skips around in time, adding to the suspense while giving the reader complementary perspectives on her protagonist, Marie Mitchell ... crammed with ideas worth unpacking ... a complex and powerful work.
There are many tangled strands to unravel here for Marie, the reader, and first-time novelist Wilkinson, who nonetheless navigates the psychic and physical terrain of this tale of divided loyalties with the poise of such classic masters as Eric Ambler and Graham Greene spiked with late-20th-century black American intellectual history ... There’s an honorable, unsung tradition of African-American novelists using the counterspy genre as a metaphor for what W.E.B. Du Bois called 'double consciousness,' and Wilkinson’s book is a noteworthy contribution.
Wilkinson’s unflinching, incendiary debut combines the espionage novels of John le Carré with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man ... a thrilling, razor-sharp examination of race, nationalism, and U.S. foreign policy that is certain to make Wilkinson’s name as one of the most engaging and perceptive young writers working today. Marie is a brilliant narrator who is forthright, direct, and impervious to deception—traits that endow the story with an honesty that is as refreshing as it is revelatory. This urgent and adventurous novel will delight fans of literary fiction and spy novels alike.