Each entry in the trilogy has proven increasingly daring, ambitious, and thematically rich, while holding true to its spy-game roots. For all its confrontations and double-crosses—the best of which go down as bitterly as cyanide capsules—Aiken in Check deepens its predecessors’ voice-driven, existential-minded inquiry into the spy life itself. Beckner’s plotting is deft, as you’d expect from a screenwriter and TV producer who made a career in military and espionage thrillers, never predictable; his infectious fascination with real-world snoop tech and tradecraft, meanwhile, ensures the suspense and surprises always feel convincing and human scaled.
Two crucial elements set Beckner’s series apart even from the top of the thriller heap. First, as a stylist he’s a showman, a razzle-dazzle sentence crafter adept (like his academic mentor, T.C. Boyle) at catching readers up in the minds of protagonists whose lives seem to be spinning out of control. Second is Aiken himself, an epileptic hero whose mind moves faster than his body, and whose disorientation about his place in the games mastered by the likes of Muir and Bishop is only compounded by the possibilities of this entry’s technological marvel. That invention exemplifies the trilogy: an entirely plausible device freighted with moral, philosophical weight, demanding reconceptualization of not just how spycraft is done but what it means and costs.
Takeaway: The epic climax of this trilogy rooted in the film Spy Game thrills as it digs deep.
Great for fans of: Charles McCarry, Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
"As in the prior Spy Game books complimenting the film of the same name, Michael Frost Beckner excels in crafting scenarios that not only involve intrigue and unexpected twists, but equally surprising challenges on the parts of major players who find their lives both entwined and at odds with one another… Aiken in Check is an espionage thriller that embraces more literary prowess than most genre reads and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED." - Diane Donovan, Sr. Editor
"Thoroughly mind-bending, time-twisting, betrayal-baiting… Evoke[s] the best of spy scribes, such as the moral ambiguities of John le Carré, the technical precision of Tom Clancy, and the violent impact of Robert Ludlum. However, Beckner puts his own spin on these genre staples, elucidating, illuminating, and bringing on-point insights into play, as when he spells out what the intelligence game is really all about… This is that rare novel that teaches as well as entertains. Even as it raises questions and gives answers, it invites readers to think about right and wrong, good and evil, loyalty and betrayal, and the real cost of a life lived in service to one’s country rather than one’s self.”
On today's podcast, we are joined by Michael Frost Beckner. Michael was the writer of my favourite spy film “Spy Game”. He joins us to discuss the making of that film and we also look at his TV show “The Agency” which was the first TV show to get access to the CIA headquarters and it had direct assistance from the CIA on certain stories and episodes.