Sasha Plotkin's Deceit by Vaughn Sherman is an espionage novel set during the Cold War. The year is 1972. The Soviet Union has successfully planted a mole in the upper echelons of the Central Intelligence Agency. Three years earlier, CIA officer Chris Holbeck took part in a failed mission to engineer the defection of Soviet KGB officer, Sasha Plotkin, who may know the identity of the mole.
Now, Plotkin has resurfaced and refuses to deal with anyone other than Chris. Their relationship already tense from Plotkin's earlier deceit, Chris must decide if participating in one last mission is worth the threat to his life and his marriage.
I was definitely intrigued by the synopsis of this espionage novel. Author Vaughn Sherman has taken his experience with the CIA and blended it into a novel about the defection of Soviet KGB agent during the Cold War. It's obvious from the many details that the author has firsthand experience. The author has also written a memoir and three books on dealing with the management of non-profits. Perhaps this is why so much of Sasha Plotkin's Deceit is telling instead of showing.
The book starts out strong, with an engaging, albeit long, prologue. It quickly deteriorates into a story plagued by too many extraneous details, quickly--and easily--resolved conflicts, and characters that remain undeveloped. Sherman definitely knows the era in which the story is set, but based upon the synopsis, I thought the incident from three years ago would be carefully woven in back story. Instead, it's an intricate part of the plot that makes the novel unnecessarily lengthy. While I applaud the efforts to add the personal side of Chris's life into the story, the challenges between Chris and his wife are a distraction at best. Lisa's motivation for acting the way she does isn't convincing enough. Bits and pieces of her past that are woven into the story leave the reader wondering how they connect to create the person Lisa has become. Chris's mother is like a relative you only see on the holidays: she makes an appearance here and there, but you never really get to know her.
Dialogue was also an area where the book didn't quite make it. Characters would provide lengthy explanations of events while Chris was relegated to sitting there and listening. During what one would expect to be an emotional exchange with his wife, he never attempts to interrupt her. Later, during a conversation with Sasha, he has brief interjections, but overall it's just Sasha telling him things. These long passages aren't even broken up with action on the characters' parts, so the reader is left wondering if they literally just sat there for an hour or so talking without doing anything else like scratching their noses, motioning with their hands, or blinking.
I stuck with it to the end because I wanted to see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit. I'm glad I did, but overall, Sasha Plotkin's Deceit didn't have enough action for my taste and the pace was slowed by a plethora of details. The book, however, has received several great reviews on Amazon, so feel free to check it out. If you enjoy an intellectually developed, intricate espionage novel, this might be your cup of tea.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Camel Press; 1st edition (August 1, 2012)
I received a free electronic copy of this book through Partners in Crime Tours. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.
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