Friday, May 10, 2013

Once a Spy by Keith Thomson

Once a SpyOnce a Spy by Keith Thomson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came across this thanks to Mystery Scene magazine where I have found many great recommendations.

Imagine a super spy managing to live long enough to develop Alzheimer's. What happens when he may inadvertently let slip some of the big secrets he knows?

Such is the premise of this really enjoyable book. Drummond Clark is the aging spy in question. His son Charlie is addicted to betting at the track and desperately trying to figure out how he's going to pay back a Russian mobster when his father turns up missing. All Charlie is trying to do is to return his father home and figure out which assisted living facility would be best, while skimming enough to pay his debts. However, repeated "coincidental" attempts on their lives send them on the lam for a simultaneously humorous and touching attempt to escape.

The scene at the beginning of the book when the father slips his leash of "company" monitors is a great example of the combination of unconscious trained stealth and Alzheimer's with which Charlie must deal for the remainder of the book. Along the way Charlie and his father spend time together, some lucidly and some not, in a way they never did before ... and Charlie discovers that his gambling career and natural talent combine unexpectedly to help keep them alive.


  1. Hey Julie, I've meant to ask you do you follow the same rating rationale as GoodReads uses or do you have your own measure for number of stars? If you've covered this on the blog before a link with no explanation here is super fine. Thanks.

  2. I actually have no idea of what GoodReads' star rationale is. If 3 stars is average (but good-ish), then I figure 4 means I liked it pretty well but it wasn't perfect, while 5 stars means I'm raving crazy about it. :-)

  3. Thanks. I ask because I have my own method and was curious about your own.

    3 = good enough read, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent & re-readable.

    GoodReads is 1 = didn't like it, 2 = it was ok, 3 = liked it, 4 = really liked it, 5 = it was amazing

    Now, another curious question. Do you publish 1 & 2 ratings?

    1. I do! I don't usually put them here unless I feel it is an issue about which people need to be warned. I figure people are interested in finding good books, not in hearing me complain about bad ones.

      Which I do.

      But I save that for Goodreads where I am free with ratings. (here's one)

      I do have a policy that I don't publish negative reviews of books I received free. I just don't mention them at all. Unless it rates a 'warning" for some reason. Or it is an Amazon Vine book because they have begun requiring reviews for all items.

    2. Here is my list of books read, sorted by star rating ...

    3. Makes sense to me.

      I appreciate what one reviewer said about feeling free to publish 1 and 2 star ratings because other people may well like what she doesn't though I get that she would not be basing her review or her decision to publish and low star rating based on, um, shall we say, moral/ethical/religious view.

      I read *so* *many* books but haven't been in the habit of publishing my reviews other than to my off-line journal - which I do, though I don't know why I do that. Recently I've been thinking about using Goodreads. I don't know the why of that either.

      Thanks for chatting about this. P.S. I appreciate that you are a Catholic who reads and publishes reviews wider than just "Catholic" books.

    4. I began using Goodreads just to keep track of my thoughts while I was reading ... and then found I was dashing off short reviews of everything. For me it is like Facebook, but so much more interesting. I continually find new books through reading my friends' updates and have made new ones that way too.

      Thank you, Owen, for your comment about reading more than just "Catholic" books. Man does not live by Catholic books alone, I find. I'm always amazed by people whose "best of the year" lists have only religious books in them. I'd be bored stiff by the lack of variety. :-)

    5. I meant to note also, that I see my rationale and Goodreads are similar. Theirs is much better stated. :-D

    6. I think what you say is one reason I've been considering GR. My offline journal is offline and often I'm reading with something online (like a smartphone or my ereader itself) nearby.

      You're welcome. A number of your own choices have had me running to the discount bin or ereader library loan or even to lay down 'real' money.

      It's a sad thing that in for some folks being belonging to the universal (catholic) faith means being as narrow as offer categorical statements such as the one I read that pontificates; no one can find God in a movie - or in fiction (unless it's fiction written by a Catholic and even then only certain Catholics). Huh, news to me.

      Read on. Review on.