I love books that are unexpected. Books with strange characters, books that have narrators that are untrustworthy, books that have unexpected plot twists and books that structured differently. The Miernik Dossier has all of these and something more-a careful and deft writer who pulls it off quite gracefully!
The book is structured like you are reading through a file folder. There are reports, letters, telegrams, interviews, receipts, diary entries, transcripts of interrogations and many other things you might find in a dossier created by an intelligence gathering organization. Presented as a “typical operation” it reflects the US government’s efforts to determine whether a man named Miernik, from Poland, is a spy and whether they should help him defect.
Set in Geneva in 1959, Miernik finds out that rather than having his visa extended so he can continue to work at the World Research Organization he is being recalled to Poland. Visibly upset by this turn of affairs, he consults with several of his colleagues and friends about what to do. Coincidentally, the people he confides in are from British Intelligence and US Intelligence services. This sets off a scramble among many intelligence services, to determine whether Miernik is a Polish or Russian spy with any useful intelligence who is trying to defect and whether or not he is worth helping or useful to their long term strategies.
Instructed by their various services to get concrete information regarding Miernik, American agent Paul Christopher and British agent Nigel Collins, soon find themselves agreeing to drive with Miernik and the Sudanese prince Kalash el Khatar in a brand new Cadillac that he is delivering to his father, the king of Sudan. Both Christopher and Collins are hopeful that this extended time with Miernik will yield greater insights into Miernik’s status and intent, but as the journey progresses unforeseen obstacles threaten the easy resolution to their questions.
Although the structure of the novel limits the ability to delve to deeply into the characters inner thoughts and motivations, I found this structure also helpful because it made me feel as if I was another character with a role to play; a member of the investigating committee who after reading the dossier would have to make a decision. McCarry also uses the structure in other ways which enhance the story, like giving the reader more information than the actual characters have, or by revealing a character’s motivations by filling in their back story.
This was McCarry’s debut novel in 1973 but it is still relevant and entertaining today. Paul Christopher who appears in this novel became a recurring character in McCarry’s later books and I am looking forward to reading more by McCarry in the future.
Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 Out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian and Ken
Book Study Worthy? Yes
Read in ebook format