In the midst of the cold war, the CIA’s finest and most fatal female agent, Diana Riley, vanishes. Kidnapped by the KGB and taken to the backcountry of North Carolina, she and her team of unsavory partners are forced to undergo illegal experimentation.
But, when the experiments leave them horribly deformed and unable to reenter society without someone crying monster, the previously glamorous and high-maintenance spies must escape KGB captivity and avoid recapture at the hands of Nikola, a ruthless KGB agent with an intense and well-justified grudge against her former flame.
Reviewed by Rebecca
RATING: Four Stars
Seven-Sided Spy is an action-packed story of hunters and prey. Though the question begs: who is truly the prey? This novel doesn't deal in absolutes or black-and-white good guys and bad guys as is often the case in CIA vs KGB stories (I think...). Everyone's just doing what they can to survive.
This is not my usual genre, and so I must admit that I may not be the best person to provide a fair review of a historical spy novel, but I'll do my best.
The story engages with several different narratives through both a forward-moving plot and an array of flashbacks. A key cast of about seven characters is not an easy juggling act for any author, but Carmack pulls it off fairly well.
If you're interested in books that are not particularly male or female dominated, but provide close to equal time to both, then this novel is one for you. I personally think it's a good thing to see more books out there that aren't confined by the sometimes rigid expectations of "lesfic" or "M/M".
That said, for me the blurb and the cover image combined set me up with a somewhat unrealistic expectation, as Diana is not explored in any more depth than the other characters in the story. Her F/F relationship also has probably the least amount of time-on-the-page of any of the diverse relationships, both sexual and otherwise. I don't see that as much of a problem as the blurb gives a really accurate feel for the thriller elements, but readers should realise that the book is not *only* about Diana and her ex-flame, but she is one equal part of a varied cast of characters that are male, female, gay, straight, and - though not explicitly labelled - an array of identities in between. I think this is a strength, and we need more books like this out there, but I also know that some people prefer a more traditional style of romance thriller, and this is not the type of book that you'll find in Seven-Sided Spy.
One of the other real strengths of this book is its action scenes, of which there are plenty. I'm terrible at following such sequences in most books, I usually just kind of bluff my way to the end of a fight scene and hope I can guess who's won from whatever happens after, but I didn't need to do that here. I could imagine the fighting play out in my head quite clearly.
Be prepared to be a little confused at times because of the large cast of characters, all of whom have two names (a real name and a code name), but stick with it because I had a pretty good grasp of who everyone was by the end. As someone who doesn't have much love for thrillers, and I am one of those few people out there who really doesn't like James Bond, this book did a surprisingly good job of holding my interest. A really solid debut novel from Hannah Carmack.
***I received an ARC of this novel***
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