Our June book club pick for Now Read This, the PBS NewsHour’s book club with The New York Times, is Lauren Wilkinson’s “American Spy,” a thrilling story about an intelligence officer who navigates love, family and duty in the years leading up to the end of the Cold War.
Set in 1986, the novel follows Marie Mitchell, a young black officer with the FBI who joins a task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the then-president of Burkina Faso. When she finds herself involved in a plot to overthrow Sankara, she begins to reconsider what it means to be a good American and a spy.
Adding depth to the fast-paced plot is Marie’s perspective, novelist Mick Herron wrote in a review for The New York Times. “As a black woman, Marie is undervalued twice over in the boys’ club atmosphere of the F.B.I. of the 1980s,” wrote Herron. “Her gender, too, puts barriers in her way,” he continued, citing a passage of the book where Marie reacts to being told by one of her colleagues that female officers are held to an unfair double standard, saying, “Hearing him explain it in theoretical terms when I’d lived it caused me a specific type of maddening anger.”
All this makes for a “remarkably assured,” “thought-provoking,” debut novel, Herron said. It was named as one of the 10 best books of the year by The Times’ Book Review, as well as NPR, Esquire and Vulture.
Wilkinson will join us at the end of the month to discuss “American Spy.” We hope you’ll read along.