A review of The Providence File (Madison McGuire #2) by Amanda Kyle Williams

In a discussion about a different book, and on a different forum, I recently commented that Amanda Kyle Williams’ Madison McGuire novels were what Bond would be if female and gay. That’s the Fleming Bond, of course, not the glitzy Hollywood version with busty broads, glitzy gas-guzzlers, and gadgets galore. There’s nothing glamorous about the world of spies in William’s espionage novels. They’re gritty and have a feeling of reality to them that many spy novels lack.

The second entry in Williams’ series features lesbian CIA op Madison McGuire’s return to the Company, after a brief retirement, to infiltrate a terrorist training camp in the Middle East. Written in 1991, it’s a little dated, but that really doesn’t really affect the reading enjoyment and, since that part of the world is still a hotbed of intrigue and unrest, the book remains topical in many ways

The writing itself is both technically competent and emotionally compelling, and the narrative is fast-paced and fun to read. The Providence File has plenty of drama, suspense and intrigue to keep you turning the pages. More than that, though, it’s a very interesting character study posing several thought-provoking questions regarding friendship, whether or not long-term relationships are compatible with being a covert agent, and the issue of innocent people as collateral damage. In an era of Wikileaks, and the government spying on its own citizens, it also touches on the question of whether it’s okay for agencies like the NSA, FBI and CIA to violate the law as long as it’s in the “national interest,” and, whether or not, when the putative “good guys” resort to the same tactics as those they oppose, they can  still be considered “good.”

Madison McGuire is a complex character, strong enough to be one of the best at what she does, but not without her vulnerabilities. Not a Mary Sue by any means. I liked her character in the opening novel, Club Twelve, but even more so here, I think because we get to better understanding of her overall character. The surrounding characters are also realistic and well-defined.

So, crisp, proficient writing, engaging characters, interesting plot with plenty of drama. Definitely highly recommended.

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