Title: Hoseboat on the Nile (Spy vs. Spook #1)
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius.
Summary: I thought that this story about two men working for two rival intelligence organizations and playing mind games on each other was fun, if not very believable at times. Unfortunately the way author chose to tell the story did not work for me at all.
Mark Vincent is WBIS—Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security. Quinton Mann is staunchly CIA. Mark thinks the CIA is full of dilettantes who leave him and the rest of the WBIS to clean up their messes. Quinn thinks most WBIS agents are sociopathic loose cannons. So they don’t exactly get along.
Of course, just because they don’t like each other doesn’t mean they can’t play mind games on each other. Or sleep together. But when an explosion at Mark’s apartment sends Quinn to the morgue to ID a body, he has to reevaluate his position on denial.
<>h2>Spy vs Spook Series
As you guys probably know about me by now, I just cannot resist “from enemies to lovers” in all its varieties, and the blurb fit the bill for me. Plus, I remembered reading a historical by this author and enjoying it. Also, I thought that the name of the main characters sounded familiar — and rightly so because I realized I read a short holiday novella by this author called No One Should Be Left Alone and found the idea there interesting but incredibly rushed and wishing that it should have been a longer work. Unfortunately I am not sure which work is the prequel/sequel to the other and whether it is even possible to describe them that way. You see, a major event happens in No One Should Be Left Alone which should clearly place it as sequel to Houseboat on the Nile, however the main characters seem to start their relationship all over again, it is as if they never tried to get close, so I suppose maybe we can call these works AUs of each other?
In any event, when I started reading this book, I was very curious; I like reading books about spies, about intelligence service. While well-written, unfortunately this book seriously challenged my “believability realm”. Do not get me wrong, the only idea as to how intelligence services work I get from movies and books, mostly fictional, so of course it is quite possible that my data is highly skewed, but here is what I did not find believable in this story and my first problem. I can easily get behind and be entertained by the existence of two intelligence organizations in the same country who are engaged in friendly — or not so friendly — rivalry. It is not the first and not the last book I will read where such a rivalry is portrayed. Now, add to the mix two rather ruthless, but likeable enough guys who think that they are obsessed with each other, but who are of course clueless enough to figure out that it may be something more, something deeper between them, and things have the potential to become very entertaining (and they sometimes were entertaining indeed). But this book takes the idea of rivalry between two intelligence service organizations of the same country to quite a ridiculous extreme. I could be completely wrong and I am more than ready to stand corrected, but I am having trouble believing that two intelligence organizations working for the same country, which I keep stressing and you will understand why very soon, would treat each other as enemies and who would execute people from their own organization for passing personal information to the other organization. Of course I know that spies do not have their hands clean and that they have to do a lot of highly questionable, if not very illegal things, for their country, but I was thinking “eh what?” We are talking about people who are citizens of the same country, and they did not betray their country or anything to that effect, so at some point I started to wonder if I should treat this as a satire. I am still not sure what to think about it, and that is not a good thing.
But what irritated me even more — and my biggest issue — was the way the story was told. We get alternating POVs, which is normally fine, but here more or less every major scene gets retold twice. First we see it from the POV of one main character and then the story jumps back in time and we are treated to a “take two” of the same event. I was irritated after the first few retellings and at the end I was very irritated. I have seen this narration device used to great effect occasionally and very sparingly, when we need to see or hear the piece of information which we would not be able to see from the POV of the first character, but the thing is we do see and understand the other character’s view very well here, so besides some additional details — and I maintain that those details were not very significant ones — I did not feel there was any need to do this. Note that there is one exception for me, which was the scene at the very end where the events were unraveling differently for several characters and we really needed to read about some emotional reactions from different characters, but before that scene, it was just unnecessary repetitiveness for me. I would also add that Mark’s and Quinn’s voices were quite similar more often than not, so if the name was not mentioned, it could have been quite confusing in these retellings.
I am disappointed, because I found the writing quite good overall and the story had the potential to be so interesting, so maybe I will like second book better.