A Book Spy Review: ‘The Good Assassin’ By Paul Vidich


Over lunch, the director of the CIA asked retired agent George Mueller for a special favor. After going on and on about the unfortunate affairs in Cuba, the director mentions a man by the name of Toby Graham who is stationed there, all the while being vague about his request. A former spy, Mueller is no village idiot, and the fact that the director was name-dropping a man he knew was enough for Mueller to see where things were headed.

Shortly after their meeting, Mueller arrived in Cuba. The year is 1958, just months before the fall of Fulgencio Batista. Mueller, who was happy in his retirement, was hand-picked for this mission due to a number of factors.

For starters, Mueller is the man responsible for bringing down a double agent within the CIA (the events of which were told in Vidich’s 2016 debut novel, An Honorable Man) just a few months prior. The director knows, with absolute certainty, that he can trust Mueller–which is critical for his current assignment. Toby Graham, on the other hand, may be wavering on where he stands in regards to the conflict in Cuba and the CIA’s efforts there, and cannot be trusted.

Traveling under the cover that he’s actually writing a travel article for a magazine, and paid well for coming out of retirement, Mueller is told to simply gauge where Graham stands on things. A simple feel-him-out mission is all it’s billed as, with no danger whatsoever.

That, unfortunately for Mueller, was not completely true.

Along with being a trusted agent, Mueller was also selected because his relationship with Graham goes back several decades when the two were undergraduates together at Yale. Truth is, the two were more rivals than friends, something the director actually thinks is more of a plus than a negative, at least in this case.

What Mueller finds out is that an unconfirmed report suggests someone is running guns into Cuba, sidestepping the United States’ embargo against Batista, and aiding Fidel Castro and his band of rebel fighters. The report suggests that man is Graham, which means the CIA wants to know more than just what he’s thinking–they want to know what he’s up to. 

As Mueller’s mission continues, he uncovers far more than the CIA director told him. In fact, he realizes the CIA may have a slightly different motive in the matter, one that involves trying to minimize the amount of blowback they may be hit with due to questionable decisions.

Written in the same vein as other slow-burn spy novelists such as Alan Furst and John Le Carre, Vidich’s latest thriller does take a bit to get going. That has more to do with the style of the novel, though, and once the plot kicks off it stays the course and never lets up. On the plus side, making the story short (The Good Assassin comes in at just under three hundred pages) negates the drawn-out feel these slow-burns tend to have. However, that leaves little time for character development, which is our only minor complaint.

Beyond that, Vidich continues to impress. Just two books into his career, he’s batting a thousand, and there’s all the reason to believe his best is yet to come. The Good Assassin is a first-rate spy novel, with plenty of fun cameos and a smart, entertaining plot.

Book Details

Author: Paul Vidich
Series: George Mueller  #2
Pages: 271 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 150111042X
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: April 18, 2017 (Order Now!)


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