A BARACK OBAMA SUMMER READING 2019 PICK
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 CENTRE FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE
'A whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love and of country' BARACK OBAMA
'There has never been anything like it' MARLON JAMES (GQ)
'A compelling read' MAIL ON SUNDAY
'Pacy and very exciting' DAILY TELEGRAPH
What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love?
It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War. Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant and talented, but she's also a black woman working in an all-white boys' club, and her career has stalled with routine paperwork - until she's recruited to a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic, revolutionary president of Burkina Faso, whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention.
In the year that follows, Marie will observe Thomas, seduce him, and ultimately, have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, and a good American.
'A stunning book' PAUL BEATTY
'Intelligent and propulsive' GUARDIAN
'A spy thriller like you've never read before' TIME
Lauren Wilkinson grew up in New York City and lives in the Lower East Side. She earned her MFA in Fiction and Literary Translation from Columbia University and has taught writing at Columbia and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has received writing fellowships from the Center for Fiction and the MacDowell Colony, and her fiction has appeared in Granta.
A whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love and of country
American Spy updates the espionage thriller with blazing originality
A fresh perspective. Marie Mitchell, a black female spy, goes on a mission to track down Thomas Sankara, the African Che Guevara, and has to choose between love, her family and her country
This debut gives a distinctive spin on the spy novel . . . A compelling read
Mail on Sunday
Wilkinson paints a convincing and lively portrait of this fascinating real-life figure. A non-privileged protagonist in this poshest of genres is rare enough to make that the USP, but by any standards this is a fine thriller, thoughtful and dryly witty, richly textured and, when required, pacy and very exciting
A novel that will snatch your summer away. There has never been anything like it, and not because of the Black female spy telling the story, but the kind of story it is: espionage thriller, African political drama, wild romance and doomed family epic
GQ - Marlon James
If your idea of a cold war thriller is a 'white saviour' hero with conservative values rescuing the world from the Soviet menace, think again: American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson's intelligent and pacy debut set against the background of a real coup d'tat, injects new life into this tired formula . . . this is a complex, powerful story of divided loyalties, double consciousness and moral ambiguity
Echoing the stoic cynicism of Hurston and Ellison, and the verve of Conan Doyle, American Spy lays our complicities-political, racial, and sexual-bare. Packed with unforgettable characters, it's a stunning book, timely as it is timeless
Paul Beatty, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sellout
An intelligent and propulsive debut tackles issues of politics, race, gender and moral ambiguity in a tale of espionage that moves between black FBI agent Marie Mitchell's 1960s New York childhood, her involvement in the 1987 Burkina Faso coup d'etat as a CIA operative and her retreat to Martinique in 1992
It might seem hyperbolic to say that this book is riveting and thrilling from the very first page, except that it totally is. . . . It's a refreshing take on an espionage story . . . that's sexy and suspenseful in equal measure
The genre-breaking spy story . . . If this isn't made into a film/HBO series then there's something wrong with the world. Written with verve and detail, this is a fantastic thriller that explores the black experience in Reagan's America, the personal vs political of serving your country and just who is on the side of righteousness
So much fun... Like the best of John le Carr, it's extremely tough to put down
Mitchell is an engaging, complex protagonist: feisty and brave but also vulnerable. The story is told in the first person; Wilkinson takes us inside Mitchell's head, which is an interesting place to be. The scenes of New York and African life are sharply observed, the narrative often lyrical. This is an impressive debut, with a multi-faceted and engaging protagonist
For the novel's engaging intelligence and serious reckoning with the world's postwar order, Wilkinson deserves the comparisons to John le Carr she's already receiving. But in bringing a virtually unheard-from fictional viewpoint to espionage literature, she has reinvigorated the genre
A gutsy new thriller . . . challenging boundaries is what brave fiction does, and Wilkinson proves confident enough to carry it off
New York Times
Lauren Wilkinson reminds us of a less-covered side of the Cold War with her debut set in 1986 Africa. FBI agent Marie Mitchell is stationed in Burkina Faso, and when she's assigned to shadow Thomas Sankara, 'Africa's Che Guevara,' the personal, political and professional collide for her in unforgettable ways