The Miernik Dossier is what its name suggests: A dossier from the early 1960s that you’d likely find in a folder in a filling cabinet in the basement of one of the intelligence services. A compilation of reports is definitely a unique way to tell a spy story, and if you like the early Cold War classics of Frederick Forsyth or John Le Carre, this book is for you. And if you enjoy the political overtones in early James Bond movies such as From Russia With Love, you’ll get a kick out of this book. The subject of the dossier is Tadeusz Miernik, an outspoken and often-animated Pole who works for the World Research Organization, a NATO agency based in Geneva. We learn the WRO provides perfect cover for spies from various NATO countries and the dossier contains information and theories from all the various intelligence agencies watching Miernik, as well as passages from Miernik’s diary. The premise of the book is simple: Is Miernik a spy? This basic question works, of course, since in the world of espionage, nothing is black and white, while everything is a different shade of gray. As we ponder the question, we follow Miernik and several WRO colleagues as they take a Cadillac on a road trip from Geneva to Sudan via Vienna and Egypt. One of the passengers is Paul Christopher, an American spy who is the main character in future books. Christopher seems torn as to whether or not Miernik is a spy and I, too, wavered over that question. In a nutshell, that’s the extent of the book, although it is more interesting than it may sound. For a first novel, Charles McCarry — a former intelligence officer himself — delivers on a subject he knows very well, although I was kind of surprised there wasn’t more of a twist at the end like your typical spy story. In fact, there wasn’t a twist at all and maybe that was by design since in the world of espionage, one is taught to expect the unexpected.

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