Houseboat on the Nile (Spy vs. Spook #1)

Title: Hoseboat on the Nile (Spy vs. Spook #1)
Author: Tinnean
Cover artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link Houseboat on the Nile
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Length: Novel
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.

Blurb:

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

Review:

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.

14 comments

  • I loved Mann of My Dreams, but when I heard it was going to be published, I hoped the author and publisher would fix the problems you mentioned. As a serial, telling each event from both points of view works much better than in a book where you are reading straight through. And Mark is far more of a ruthless loose cannon in the beginning than he turns out to be later on. It sounds like this was a failure of editing by Dreamspinner to me.

    Reply
    • Oooooo, I think I hear what you are saying Charming. Yes, I can see how when you are reading the new episode of the story online weekly or monthly, I can see how repetition can work if nothing else to recap what happened before. I am still not sure if I would have liked such detailed repetition, but I can definitely see what you are coming from. As to the editing failure on Dreamspinner’s part – well yes, I stated before how abysmal I often find the content editing in the books done by this publisher and this is just another example to add to the list.

      Reply
  • Hi PattiB. Yes, they were retelling the whole chapters and to me it was unnecessary repetition and way too much of it. I am glad to hear that murdering another agent for this reason is not exactly grounded in reality. As I said I do not expect our intelligence people to have squeaky clean hands, but that went way above and beyond of anything I could ever imagine. And I am very cynical about stuff like this.

    Reply
  • Sirius,
    I had the exact same problems you did. I read about 60% of the book and just had to put it aside, for now. Perhaps I will pick it up again later.

    I bought the book based on word of mouth and the reviews at goodreads. I would not even call it switching point of views. Whole chapters were repeated throughout the book.
    I didn’t really care that much about the main characters either.

    As for the rival intel. organizations, that bothered me. Pranks yes, Murder, NO! I worked for NSA and my husband was in military intel. Granted, that was over 18 years ago but I think murdering another agent 😕 is still frowned upon.

    Reply
  • Hi Sirius,

    thank you for replying. I liked your review, don’t get me wrong. I thought that you explained your reservations well.

    I was not trying to say that you, the reviewer, should look up other reviews (I had hoped that I edited my comment to reflect that before you read it :-), I was just hoping that people who read your review will not base their decision whether to read this one or not solely on your not-quite-liking-it. I know I might be tempted to, because I love this site and base lots of my reading decisions on the reviews here, yours included. Just trying to show that there are other opinions out there, for people who might be interested in reading them (or not).

    No criticism intended at all. These are after all personal opinions.

    Patricia

    Reply
  • Hi Sirius,

    I don’t often feel the need to speak up when a reviewer gives one of my favorites a mediocre review. I can’t let this one slide though.

    There is no accounting for taste and I absolutely adore this book. And with me many people. So, I hope that people who read your review also take a look at the reviews on GoodReads (it was originally published online as ‘Mann of my Dreams’ so some reviews and ratings are under that title). Since I found this online a few years ago, I have reread this story many, many times. But then I know that I read my comfort books for atmosphere.

    Yes, the switching POVs are sometimes confusing. Yes, there is a lot of repetition, but the character development more than makes up for it, imo. Mark Vincent especially, I cannot help but find intriguing, sometimes frustrating (is he a misogynist or is that just what he tells himself?), lovable even.

    Agreed, the situations are often not very believable. Why does fiction have to be believable, anyway? I’d call it satire, if I’d feel the need to label it.

    IMO, it is not a mediocre book. It is not for everyone, true.

    Take care,
    Patricia

    Reply
    • Hi Patricia I am glad that you enjoyed the book. As you can see from my grade I did not hate it either. I just was not impressed. There is no accounting for taste as you said and you never know what will work for every individual reader. The issues I described were the reason why the book was not particularly working for me despite good writing. Also for me believability is the essential requirement for good fiction. Note I did not say – realism, I said believability. For example I love fantasy but even when I read about most fantastical world I need to be convinced that the characters act in the believable way. SPOILER to follow, but not very siginificant one.

      One spy executing a young agent because he gave their rivals essentially harmless personal information was not believable for me, especially since it appeared that nothing was done when the same thing was done several times either by foreign agent or as we realize by these people again ( don’t they calmly mention closer to the end that they still have their person in rival organization?). This was weird to me and yes I suspected meant to be satirical but since I did not find the overall tone of the story to be satirical, I was just scratching my head. And repetition of major plot points killed most of the enjoyment I may have had from watching these guys’ attics. In any event, as I said I am glad that you enjoyed the story. I am not sure what the fact that many people enjoyed it has to do with anything though – I usually ignore the reviews if I choose the book from reviewing blurbs – I don’t want to be influenced by other arguments, but I like reading them afterwards, I will take a look. Review is always just one opinion of one person – obviously yours and mine do differ on this one . Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  • Hmm I was waiting for your review before I picked this one up, Sirius. Can I ask if they do actually go to Egypt or is the title supposed to be a pun on the whole ‘denial is a river in Egypt’ thing? A bit crazy I know but I would read a mediocre book set in Egypt but not a mediocre book set in America 😆

    Reply
  • I didn´t know that it was related to No One Should Be Left Alone. Pocking around I have seen it described as “alternate reality” :computer:
    Anyway, I also had some problems with the way of telling the story 🙁
    Thank you for your review 😎

    Reply
    • Thanks Helena. Yes I remembered the names and since this author does not have that many works published yet it was easy enough for me to find the connection.

      Reply

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