cover image Red, White, Blue

Red, White, Blue

Lea Carpenter. Knopf, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-524-73214-1

Carpenter follows her debut, 2013’s Eleven Days, with a beautifully written spy novel told in short segments, many of them narrated by a nameless CIA officer. Successful banker and stockbroker Noel spied for the CIA for 30 years. During this time, his wife, Lulu, abandoned the family, and Noel was left to raise their precocious child, Anna, alone. When Noel dies, Anna tries to piece together her father’s life in the face of accusations that he was really a spy for the Chinese. The nameless CIA agent, who was Noel’s protégé and is now missing, is wanted by the CIA for unofficially exfiltrating a Chinese double agent, who was recruited by Noel. Where most thrillers showcase familiar tips on spy craft and weaponry, Carpenter depicts the more esoteric and often byzantine facets of intelligence work. She skips the easy morality of guns, patriotic loyalty, and heroic action to slowly disclose the complexities of the secret world and how it relates to the human heart. Readers should not expect to come away satisfied with pat solutions, but rather to be seduced and enthralled with the far more challenging questions that arise and are sometimes, as in life, left unanswered. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (Aug.)