“An Improbable Spy” Book Reviews

This riveting spy thriller about an American merchant banker drawn into a world of espionage where no one can be trusted is one not to be missed.

As the story gets underway, Jack Devlin narrowly escapes Tehran during the 1979 hostage situation in Iran, losing almost all of his business, and more importantly, leaving the love of his life, Farideh, behind. He is subsequently approached by an old, trusted friend who offers him a devil’s bargain: become an expendable spy, one the agency will deny; help the CIA and British MI6 obtain the ledger of Farideh’s father, arms merchant Mustafa Khaki; and they will get Farideh out of Iran for him.

Devlin is sent on a wild roller coaster ride through the treachery and mayhem of the Middle East, into a circle of agents, double agents, defectors, and collaborators, where he discovers that the warning of the British MI6 Chief who trains him.

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“In our business, things may not be quite as they seem” is an understatement and that signing up for this job could easily cost him and his girl friend their lives. Never being quite sure who to trust casts a dark curtain over everything Jack does. And in the end, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out who the real turncoats are.

The settings ring with authenticity. Collins’s descriptions of bazaars, street scenes, customs officials, and hotels in Tehran, Kuwait, and Egypt, and roadblocks manned by soldiers leading boys with AK-47’s, are vivid enough to convince anyone who has been in the Third World for any length of time that the author has been there, and not as a tourist.

The writing flows, the characters are engaging, and the passages showing MI6, the CIA, and Mossad deceiving each other to gain an advantage while “working together” are chilling.

In sum, this is a brilliantly written espionage tale — as good as it gets.

Also available as an ebook.

Source: Blue Ink Reviews

iUniverse, 262 pages, (paperback) $20.99, 9781532080104
(Reviewed: January 2020)


“An Improbable Spy” is a cryptic thriller: nothing is as it seems, and no one is who they say they are.

David Paul Collins’s timely historical spy novel An Improbable Spy has all the elements of a classic Cold War-era tale, as the CIA goes against the KGB, but with a Middle Eastern twist.The story begins with a chill on the streets of Moscow in 1980. KGB agent Vladimir Sudakov, who has information about Soviet machinations involving the American hostages in Iran, is about to betray his country on a metro platform, beneath the gaze of a mosaic of Lenin. In London, Jack Devlin, the owner of a struggling merchant banking business in Kuwait, is approached with a business proposition: his old friend Hugh, who’s now a CIA agent, will help Devlin sneak his love interest and her sister out of Tehran in exchange for an arms trafficker’s ledger.

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Within this diverse cast exist characters whose lives are mini history lessons. There are Indian Gurkha soldiers, Sudanese Dinkas with their ritually scarred faces, and Omani dhow captains. Their stories are sometimes melancholy: Roosevelt Street in Tehran is recalled as having “been named in honor of the once special relationship between America and Iran.” Their conversations, accents, and dialects convey varied rhythms, from the Cockney used by a hotel concierge to bazaar negotiations.

Sly humor leavens the book’s life-and-death stakes. Devlin enjoys “entertaining lovelies until something came up. Sometimes it was the sun.” Chapter titles contribute, too, as with “Furlong in the Belfry,” while British agents have names like Algernon Trivelpiece and Pandora Quince. Evocative phrasing and imagery complement the book’s local color and atmosphere, helping to define disparate settings, as with “Perfumed scents of oranges from Lebanon blended with sticky sweet aromas of figs from the deltas of Basra and lemons from the Levant.”

Locations from today’s news are a prominent feature; the action jumps between world capitals, including Cairo, Damascus, and Tehran, with speed. There are clandestine meetings, information drops, and double-dealing between the compromised operatives of the CIA, KGB, and Great Britain’s MI6. These involve plenty of twists, especially when Israel’s Mossad shows up. A motorcycle chase through the alleyways of Tehran, as Devlin makes his final attempt to escape, features well-facilitated action.

Its people, plot, and places resonant, An Improbable Spy is a cryptic thriller: nothing is as it seems, and no one is who they say they are.

MICHELLE NEWBY (January 17, 2020)

Source: Clarion Reviews

iUniverse (Sep 19, 2019) Softcover $20.99 (262pp) 978-1-5320-8010-4


Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.​