Thriller Book Review: The Wayward Spy by Susan Ouellette

Thriller Book Review

The Wayward Spy
Author: Susan Ouellette
Publication Date: March 2 2021
Publisher: CamCat Publishing, LLC
Genres: Thriller
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted

Although I struggled a bit with the pacing, the poor decisions, and the questionable behavior of professionals who really should be better than that, The Wayward Spy kept me reading on the strength of Maggie Jenkins - intelligence analyst, grief-struck widower, and ordinary woman on a mission.

In Maggie, Susan Ouellette has crafted a realistic heroine with whom we can immediately identify. She's smart and she's clever, she thinks well on her feet, but there are no dark secrets or hidden deadly talents. She has no martial arts or military training, spends the entire book completely unarmed, with nary a concealed or improvised weapon at hand. She's a woman driven by grief, but she's also an intelligence professional who knows the importance of asking questions, no matter how uncomfortable the answers may be.

Taking place under the shadow of 9/11 and the Al Qaeda threat, The Wayward Spy draws the Russian Mafia and Chechen rebels into the story, which opens it up to explore the motivations of terrorism and greed versus resistance and rebellion. There are clear bad guys (by the end, at least) but there are also some curious shades of grey, especially in dealing with informants and double-agents. Ouellette does a good job of sprinkling clues and red herrings throughout the story, and while I figured out several characters early one, there was one in particular I just couldn't pin down. There were a few holes in the story, security lapses that seemed a tad too convenient, but nothing to detract from the overall story.

If you can stick with the first half, which is slowly paced and full of far more talk than action, the story really takes off once it hits its stride, ramping up the tension and the action as it careens towards a conclusion. There is a cliffhanger that makes the story feel unfinished, putting a big question mark on Maggie's future, but all-in-all this was a welcome, female-focused twist on the old-boys-club of low-tech spy thrillers.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.