Title: The Miernik Dossier
Author: Charles McCarry
McCarry, Charles (1973, 2005). The Miernik Dossier. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press
PS3563.A2577 M54 2005
Date Posted: March 12, 2015
Charles McCarry is one of the top writers of espionage, suspense/thriller fiction and perhaps in the same literary league with John LeCarré, Alan Furst, Eric Ambler, and Ken Follett. McCarry’s nuanced, at times poetic, writing style, his ability to create real, flesh and blood characters who will move you, and his fast-paced, taunt storylines, put him at the top of the list for craftsmanship and inventiveness. However, for anyone who reads this review and becomes motivated to search out The Miernik Dossier or any of the author’s other novels, I urge you to follow through.
I should note that McCarry worked for the CIA during the height of the Cold War, and the air of authenticity that permeates his books makes them all the more fascinating and absolutely riveting. His position as one of the “Old Boys,” and his knowledge of “The Company” and the political goings-on within the DC Beltway add tremendously to his most original plots.
The Miernik Dossier, published in 1973 (reissued in 2005), is McCarry’s debut novel and also the first book to feature Paul Christopher, the cool, sophisticated American undercover agent—who is to the author what George Smiley is to John Le Carré. The narrative, purely experimental at the time it was written, is comprised of a collection of 89 numbered extracts from intelligence reports made by field agents (from various countries), as well as memos, wire-taps and diaries revolving around a somewhat bumbling Polish exile who might be a double or even triple agent…but then again who might not. No one knows for sure whether Tadeusz Miernik is a good guy or a bad one, or whose side he is on—not American agent Paul Christopher, nor British Intelligence officer Nigel Collins, nor Kalash el Khatar a North African prince, nor any one of the colorful characters who plot, spy and elevate the art of subterfuge to the highest level. One of the novel’s highlights involves a trip (mostly by Cadillac) from Geneva to the Sudan with Miernik, Khatar, Collins, a beautiful Hungarian seductress (who might be a spy), and Miernik’s sister, who must be smuggled out of Czechoslovakia before she can join the group. There’s plenty of dark humor to be found between the pages also.
The fact that this is listed as an important spy fiction work by Douglas L. Wheeler, Ph.D in “The Literature of Intelligence: ‘Another Kind of Need to Know’”, in Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (21, 1, Winter 2014-15, pp. 67-73). McLean, VA: Association of Former Intelligence Officers, means this is a worthy book to read.
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