After a false lead in Rome proves disastrous to his mission, Company Agent Ben Calix returns to his home in Paris to awaits his next orders. Unfortunately, they never come. While fleeing his compromised apartment, Ben runs into Clara, a Dachshund-toting neighbor who has been asking Ben out for months. Rather than going on the coffee date Ben has been avoiding, the two are thrust together in an international operation, fleeing Company snipers and crooked agents while working to exonerate Ben and avert a manmade pandemic.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, through the Revell Reads program.
The book certainly contained its fair share of violence, with one scene in particular that struck me as graphic. (Emphasis on me— as I mentioned, I’m new to the genre.) On one hand, I get that this is a spy novel, so violence, to one degree or another “goes with the territory.” On the other hand, I think that the amount of violence, coupled with Ben’s desensitized perspective, felt like a bit much. This isn’t to say that I would “un-recommend” the book on this ground. In so many ways (perhaps violence included), it is SO MUCH CLEANER than books I see that are tailored to a younger (YA) audience. However, for those who like to know what content they may be exposed to, the violence is worth a mention, especially because this is a Christian book.
This was my first time reading a spy novel. As my introduction to spy stories, I noticed that the book was much more strongly plot-driven than character-driven.
In the beginning of the story, my “connection” with the text was more based on my desire to understand what was going on. I plowed on, although I was a little bit frustrated with how confusing things were, at first. However, once I reached the 1/3 point, I was hooked!
Insofar as I’m more used to books that emphasize character-development over plot, I had a bit of difficulty connecting with the characters. I noted that, based on my (very little) experience with the genre via film, it the book started off with a “James Bond” feel, in that the character seemed to be a lady’s man. I was actually a little concerned that the female characters would function more as accessories for the main character. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with the main female character, Clara.
The protagonist, Ben made some questionable choices, which also affected my sympathy for him. However, based on the author’s note, I think that Ben’s characterization as a spy was meant to show him making human choices, given the situations he faced (and given the author’s overarching purpose— also addressed in the Author’s Note).
Something I really enjoyed, as far as characterization goes, was the internal coaching Ben would give himself, parroting the words of his former instructor, Hale. I liked that we got to “know” the character, simply through the lens of Ben’s thoughts. Hale also really seemed to know what he was talking about, which attests to the author’s personal experience and knowledge.
As mentioned in the Author’s Note, Hannibal has experience as a “spy,” although he didn’t consider himself a spy. With that said, I really appreciated that Hannibal has such a strong grasp on his content. While I don’t expect authors to always have life experience in the field they’re describing, I want to feel that they at least did their research.
I have found that when an aspect of a book is under-researched/oversimplified to the reader, it undermines the book’s credibility, for me. Not so in Hannibal’s case! Thanks to the way that Hannibal characterizes Hale as an authority in the field (and Ben bases most of his decisions on Hale’s instructions), I felt that the book was quite believable.
With the exception of a few vague references to faith scattered throughout the story, I didn’t really spot a lot of spiritual content, at first. In fact, I was beginning to think that the novel was characterized as Christian simply because it was clean (some kissing; very little emphasis on romance— although the level of violence surprised me a little). However, as I closed in on the ending, I realized what the author had been doing throughout the text. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that, by the end of the text, the (subtle) spiritual undertones plus the plot resulted in a “mind blown!” experience. It definitely left me thinking.
On a philosophical level, this book had a lot more depth than I expected, as there is more going on “behind” the plot. While I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who is wanting to learn more about Christianity, I would recommend this to Christians (and even to non-Christians, since the spiritual elements aren’t heavy handed.) Although it took me awhile to get into the book, I am very glad to have read it!