Author: M.K. South
Publication Date: March 8, 2017
Length: 874 pages
Reviewed by Jenn
What do you do when you realize that the American Dream you have been working for so hard is not enough if it will be yours and yours alone? And that what you are told to do will destroy the only true friend you have ever had?
Summer of 1985. Jack Smith is a rookie CIA case officer posted at the American Embassy in Moscow. Despite his gregarious nature, Jack is a lonely man: not only is he a reluctant spy, he is also gay. When he meets Eton Volkonsky, a talented nuclear physics student, Jack's bosses instruct him to develop the Russian as a future agent. Their friendship deepens, and Jack is torn between his suspicion that Eton and friends are with the KGB and his attraction to the man. But he continues telling himself and his bosses that he is just doing his job, developing his agent. Only when he leaves Russia does Jack admit that he has been fooling himself all the while. He takes on assignments in various countries, with a hope that eventually they will get him back to Moscow.
As introspection and growing doubts about what he does for living torment Jack, the world is buffeted by a whirlwind of dramatic events – diplomatic and spy wars, the rise of AIDS, the Chernobyl catastrophe, the war in Afghanistan and the disintegration of the communist bloc.
They meet again and Jack is given a second chance. Will he make the right decision this time round?
Of Our Own Device by M. K. South almost felt like it was written just for me! It has all the things I love all together: mystery, suspense, history, spies, intrigue, and romance all rolled into one incredible book!
It’s 1985 and we meet Jack Smith, a rookie CIA Officer, posted at the American Embassy in Moscow. The eighties were crazy times in American/Russian politics and this book touched on so much of what was going on in those days. The spy/thriller aspect of this book is so well written and very compelling. I am so impressed by the amount of research that must have gone into this book. So…back to Jack! Jack is young, smart and he also has a secret. Jack does what he needs to for his job, for the way he believes he’s supposed to live. But Jack yearns and that yearning made me ache for him at times. Imagine being a gay man in 1985 with the AIDS epidemic…now imagine being in Russia at the same time. Not a very safe world for a man who already works in a dangerous profession. Jack gives himself little vacations away from his real world to carry himself through till the next time he can be his true self, but you feel his loneliness.
When Jack is assigned to recruit a target, things start to get really interesting. Jack isn’t expecting to like the group of young people he is to make friends with, but he does. His world is suddenly opening up and at the heart of that is a Russian student named Eton. Jack’s assignment to get close to the student who is working on a project having to do with the Nuclear Winter Theory. Getting close is Jack’s job, getting too close could be Jack’s downfall. Being attracted to an assignment isn’t ideal, being hopelessly attracted to a same sex assignment could be deadly. Now is the part where I can’t tell you more because of spoilers but trust me…it’s all so good!
This was my first book by this author and it’s a long one. I honestly didn’t realize how long until it was over because I was so invested and entertained throughout. The book touches on some heavy subjects, as mentioned above, the AIDS epidemic is a backdrop throughout the book. The history is also heavy at times, giving us those behind the scenes glimpses at a time in our history where I was paying more attention to Madonna than to Russia. I truly loved this part; I love when a book causes us to pause and remember…to give respect to those who came before us. In the case of this book, it’s the courage that gave me the most satisfaction. Jack and Eton, as well as all the people living through and surviving such seemingly insurmountable obstacles. A book like this makes us reflect on what was, what is and what we hope will be. If you can’t already tell, I loved this book. It’s a long historical fiction and those don’t always get the love they deserve…this one certainly deserves some love.
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