Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Handler by MP Woodward
Published by Berkley on May 31, 2022
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble
Meredith Morris-Dale is a CIA agent and a damn good one...even if this last mission did go terribly wrong. Now she has been summoned back to Langley where she expects to be fired. Instead, she is met by the Deputy Director with stunning news.
A single well-placed CIA mole in Iran's uranium enrichment program has kept the terrorist nation from building a bomb by sabotaging their centrifuge's performance. But after losing his daughter in an airliner shootdown, the mole wants out--leaving the world on the brink. His one demand: a reunion with the only handler he ever trusted, John Dale--Meredith's disgraced, fired, wayward ex-husband. As Meredith and John struggle through their fraught relationship, a craven CIA political hierarchy, Russian interference, and the rogue spy's manipulation, they must reach deep within their shared connection to maintain, recover, or kill the asset.
The Handler is an espionage thriller. The action and tension is suspenseful throughout. Of course, I was rooting for the American team. The Russians seemed to be very skillful in their tactics and efficiently brutal. The Middle Eastern characters seemed to be either religious zealots, or people caught unhappily in that world of zealots and violence.
The characters were well-developed but not easy to like. Almost everything we know about them is their job, and not much else. More personal layers would have maybe helped to better like the characters. I didn’t feel a sense of team or camaraderie. There was nothing to find humorous, only scary.
The Americans seemed a bit behind the curve but had some skills and extreme luck. Meredith was handling her ex-husband but other than disliking her lazy, cheating boss wasn’t really helpful to him until the end.
John, who was carrying out the mission, was super talented at fighting and staying off the radar. He was suspicious about everything and that was smart. It saved him several times. He seemed the most realistic and I could understand his reaction to being on this mission.
I enjoyed this intelligence thriller, although it was a bit long. The details made it more believable. It was exciting and I was on edge for several people’s safety.
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I can see the struggle when you aren’t given a reason to like the characters. Pretty exciting, though!
It was exciting and the trade craft was interesting. I just didn’t get too connected with any of the characters.
Makes it hard not liking the characters.
I could have liked them. There just was very little personal aspects. Everything about them was their work. Well except for the guy having the affair. The affair would be personal.
I haven’t read a good spy thriller in a very long time. I’ll have to keep this one in mind. John does sound like a very interesting character. 🙂
John is the character I found the most relatable. He was out of the game until he was needed for this mission. He hadn’t been treated well by the CIA either.
I find it hard to really enjoy a book when I can’t connect to the characters. But it does sound like a good book. I like a story that keeps me on the edge of my seat.
I’d have liked a bit more of their personal aspects; everything was their work and those details. I could have liked the characters.
I like seeing the personal side of characters as well. So glad you enjoyed it overall.
Exactly, a little more of their personal side would have gone a long way.
This sounds like it would be an exciting read but too bad the characters are all that likable.
Rather than likable I should say personable. They are all about the work so we don’t know very much about them otherwise. The focus was the mission here more than the people I felt.