Synopses & Reviews
A former CIA case officer's novel about two embattled spies who go to extraordinary lengths to keep their informants out of harm's way, published as vetted by the agency itself.
Mark Ruttenberg may not be fit for the CIA. Early in his tenure with the agency, he learns about a former operative, Bobby Goldstein, and becomes curious about the case that led to his termination. Before he can get to the bottom of what happened, however, he's shipped off to [REDACTED], where he hobnobs with foreign diplomats and informants, who have access to [REDACTED] information and contacts like the powerful General [REDACTED], in the hopes of recruiting them as agents. But, when he falls for the wrong woman, he's quickly sent back to REDACTED], with nothing to show for his secretive work but a mysterious postcard with an unknown address on it. Who sent the postcard, and where is it supposed to lead him? Could this all be an ops test, with Mark's future hanging in the balance? Soon, he'll have to decide if righting an old wrong is worth taking a terrible and very personal risk. Published with redacted material throughout the novel, An Ordinary Spy is a riveting and dramatic portrait of modern espionage, filled with suspense, intrigue, and betrayal.
"Mimicking many nonfiction books about the CIA, Weisberg, a former CIA officer, has included a blizzard of redacted (blacked out) words and sentences in his second novel (after 10th Grade), as if the agency's publications review board had worked the manuscript over with a heavy hand. Did they? Or is it just a clever ploy for verisimilitude? Mark Ruttenberg, a newly minted agent, is on his first foreign assignment trying to persuade citizens of an unknown country (the location has been redacted) to spy for American interests. He's doing well until he starts sleeping with one of his contacts and his superiors eventually fire him. Back in America, Ruttenberg meets another cashiered spy, Bobby Goldstein, and the two men share their experiences. Ruttenberg and Goldstein may be pretty ordinary spies, as the title suggests, but their stories compel, thanks to the author's deft prose and insider expertise. Given the quantity of blacked-out material, some readers may be more annoyed than intrigued as they puzzle over the missing information." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]he narrative turns out to be quite gripping....[A] novel that resembles the best of new American spy fiction, though tilted somewhat at an angle." Chicago Tribune
"The book is fiction packaged as mock memoir." New York Times
"[A] stab at verisimilitude, large chunks of the novel's text are blacked out, a technique that eventually becomes an irritating stylistic tic on the part of Weisberg....More slack than taut." Kirkus Reviews
"For those willing to contemplate the anti-Bond view of spying, this is definitely a book to read." Booklist
"In two words: A masterpiece. An intelligent spy thriller written in a deft, dry style that reveals a landscape both darkly funny and unsettling. Joe Weisberg is one of our most accomplished and generous writers." Gary Shteyngart
"It's tempting to say that An Ordinary Spy is extraordinary, but I'm afraid that doesn't begin to do this novel justice. In a world where everyone is always promising to reinvent genres and subgenres, Joseph Weisberg hijacks the espionage thriller and finds the grave beauty in the quotidian and dares to write about one of the most dangerous topics of all, the search for a meaningful yet moral life." New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman
"I have never read an espionage novel with quite the sense of authenticity Joe Weisberg achieves in An Ordinary Spy, He has crafted not only an engrossing and highly-original work, but a fascinating journey into a world most of us will never encounter. Chances are you'll never think about the CIA in quite the same way again." Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
"Most so-called spy fiction out there today is so far from reality that we pros don't read it. Joe Weisberg is a notable exception. He nails it. An Ordinary Spy captures perfectly the spy world I lived in my whole career, how we talk, how we think, and how we operate. Joe gets it better than Clancy and is on a par with McCarry. His book is the best spy story I've read in years." James M. Olson, former chief of CIA counterintelligence and the author of Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying
""A great read. Stunningly realistic." Ted Price, former Deputy Director for Operations, CIA
“This book is surely the best portrait of the working C.I.A. we have had in many years.” —New York Times Book Review
The most riveting and inventive spy novel to come along in years, published as vetted by the CIA itself, An Ordinary Spy is a dramatic portrait of modern espionage, filled with suspense, intrigue, and betrayal.
About the Author
Joseph Weisberg is the author of the critically acclaimed 10th Grade, which was a 2002 New York Times Notable Book. A former CIA officer, he grew up in Chicago and currently lives in New York City.