Colin MacKinnon

"Morning Spy, Evening Spy"

(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky DEC 29, 2006)

Morning Spy, Evening Spy by Colin MacKinnon

Colin MacKinnon's Morning Spy, Evening Spy is a chilling look at the clandestine world of American intelligence before 9/11, written by a Middle Eastern expert who lived and worked in Iran for years. The first person narrator is CIA Officer Paul Patterson, who tells his story both in the present tense and in flashback. The book opens with the shooting of an American named Ed Powers, who is gunned down in Peshawar, a frontier province in Pakistan. Was Ed, a former CIA officer and a CIA contractor at the time of his death, killed by al-Qaeda because of his CIA connections or did he get into trouble because of his shady business dealings involving drugs and armaments? Is it possible that he was the victim of a random act of terrorism? No one knows, but U. S. government officials are anxious to find out who murdered Powers and why. An Afghan named Kareem, who had also been on the CIA payroll, may have some answers but he has suddenly vanished.

Patterson, who is nearing fifty, is a former Marine and self-proclaimed patriot. He is a twenty-five year veteran of the CIA, and during his long career, he served in various overseas capitals. However, his obsession with his work has come at a price; Nan, his wife of twenty-four years, has filed for divorce. Paul is in a new relationship with Karen, a Washington-based journalist who seems to be a bit more tolerant of his work-related responsibilities.

Paul's current title is special assistant for counterterrorism to Paul Lindsay, the director of central intelligence. Paul's colleague, Bill Cleppinger, whom he calls Clep, heads the Antiterrorism Action Committee. The CIA has been under fire of late, and Clep and Paul have been summoned by Jim McClennan, chief of staff of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, to answer some tough questions. Clep and Paul pretend to be forthcoming, but they carefully withhold key facts from the committee.

The plot of Morning Spy, Evening Spy is incredibly complex, and there is a huge cast of characters who are, at times, difficult to tell apart. However, the strength of the novel lies in the author's insightful exploration of several key themes: How did the United States intelligence community fail to stop the 9/11 hijackers when they left such an obvious trail of clues? Does the CIA's penchant for secrecy go so far that their policies actually harm the people that they are sworn to protect? How does a CIA officer, who is forced to lie frequently and keep secrets from his colleagues and family, survive emotionally?

There is a telling passage in which Paul chats with his friend, a Pakastani journalist named Amjad Afridi. Afridi tells Paul what is wrong with the CIA: "I sometimes think that you cannot see the living, breathing reality in front of your faces or the dangers that lurk just off to the side..." Afridi believes that the CIA and the American government as a whole are in a state of denial. Their failure to come to terms with the truth about Islam, terrorism, and the United States government's failures and shortcomings will hurt them badly someday. These words prove to be eerily prescient. Colin Mackinnon's Morning Spy, Evening Spy is a powerful and stunning indictment of a bureaucracy that has outlived its usefulness and has not kept pace with a geopolitical climate that is irrevocably different from the one that prevailed during the cold war years.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 4 reviews


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About the Author:

Colin MacKinnon was chief editor of Middle East Executive Reports. While living in Iran, he taught at Tehran University and the University of Jondi Shapur in Ahwaz. In the mid-1970’s, he was director of the American Institute of Iranian Studies in Tehran. He has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages from UCLA and a master of science in Journalism from Columbia University. He has taught Persian at Columbia University and at Georgetown. From 1995-1997, he was Iran Country Coordinator for Amnesty International USA.

He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with his wife Diane.

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