Posted by: Corri van de Stege | August 17, 2009

Life’s too short – The Amateur Spy, by Dan Festerman

Don’t you feel that life’s too short?  There aren’t enough hours in the day, not enough days in the week and not enough weeks in the year.  Too many things to do, always onto the next thing, that’s how it feels.

I wrote a book review, oohh, about a week ago now, intending to post and then get on to all these other books that I am contemplating reading or actually reading.  I did not even get round to posting my review, let alone finish reading and reviewing any of the other books, although I can tell you I am doing my best!  But hey, there’s day to day work to be done as well.

And writing?  No, you don’t want to know.

The amateur spyLet’s start with my book review, the one that’s done and dusted – but not in a pejorative sense, not at all.  I  really enjoyed reading this book: The Amateur Spy, by Dan Festerman.  If you are still looking for that intelligent holiday book to read, or simply something to read in the back garden, on the train, or to get away from every day nagging feelings just read this.

Freeman Lockhart has retired from his job as an aid worker, and with his wife Mila is heading for Karos (Greece), away from it all.  This already is quite fascinating.  What do I know about aid workers and what it is really like to be out there, in the midst of revolutions, killings, humanity at its worst and the helpless victims?  Well, this books shows it’s not a very romantic occupation, it does not at all give you the feel-good factor.

Mila is a Bosnian, and Freeman met her when working in Sarajevo.  Later, when they are both in Africa, Freeman bends the rules in order to protect Mila.  This will come to haunt him.  Freeman is forced out of intended retirement by, what he assumes is, the American Secret Service, to spy on his friend Omar in Amman, because this secret service knows about him bending those rules.  He becomes entangled in politics and events, Middle Eastern Al Qaida suspects and double dealings, which he needs to unravel in order to understand what Omar is doing and who he, Freeman is in fact dealing with.  Then, in America, there’s Aliya Rahim who is trying to prevent her husband from carrying out an act of revenge for the dying of their daughter Shereen.  After 9/11 Shereen was prevented from travelling on a flight back from a London visit, a suspected foreigner because of her nationality. 

The story is intriguing, ordinary people are becoming involved in events beyond their every-day lives because of who they are, their nationality, and where they are, and sometimes also because of what they did in the past. 

It’s a very believable story, firmly set in today’s messed up world with people trying to prevent the worst from happening to them and their families.  I think the characterisation is excellent – these are real people with real conflicts.  The blurb quotes the Economist ‘Gritty verisimilitude against a subtle political backdrop … vivid and dramatic.  Absolutely:  a page turner!

Yes, I’m really enjoying these political thrillers set in today’s world of tension, with topics that are part of our daily lives and which are very disquieting.  I’ll read a few more.

Not far from this genre are the books that are also set in today’s dilemma’s, within the consequences of terror and upheaval.  I was really interested in an e-mail I got about a book written by Shaila Abduallah and which I am now reading Saffron Dreams as well as a few others.   However, Saffron Dreams will come first, because I am unable to put that one down and I have almost finished it.  And that’ll be my next review, promise.  I am hooked on this book because it is so much about the immigrant (or emigrant) living in a different world, having to justify her existence there in the midst of chaos and hurt that is not of her making.



  1. To tune to your pace in reading, seachanges, is an odyssey for me who try to be “in” in politics, economy, human rights, etc, etc.

    But I like reading you and being updated about what goes about in the Literature world.

    Sad that the economic world cannot be understood by the great majority, because if it were perhaps the crisis that is assailing us would not be taking place.

  2. Great review and life is yes, way too short! 🙂

  3. Just saying hi. Here in my little office hoping to clean it up but don’t know where to start. where does clutter come from? thought I cleaned up in here, oh, just the other day. Do I really want to save all these magazines and pictures? Should I purchase yet another storage thing/organizer? Nah. I’ll never look in it to see what’s there! Hope you’re traveling safely and getting ready for the seasonal change…perhaps that is what has me up here wanting to get things in order…!

  4. Jose – even my pace is slowing down… cannot keep up with everything!
    Joanne – yes it just is…
    Oh – clutter, yes, I keep rearranging my stuff around as well and then suddenly close my eyes and simply bin a whole lot without looking too closely. Bits of information can always be recovered from the internet… 🙂
    Enjoy your autumn clean up!

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