The Handler
May 24, 2022

Book Review

The Handler

reviewed by Pam Guynn

The Handler by M.P. Woodward is an exhilarating and suspenseful spy novel featuring Meredith Morris-Dale, a CIA case officer and John Dale, Meredith’s ex-husband and disgraced former CIA operative.

A CIA mole in Iran’s uranium enrichment program wants out, but he demands that he will only work with John, the only handler he ever trusted. Will Meredith be able to convince John to take on the assignment, let alone successfully exfiltrate the mole?

The multiple points of view are effective in giving great perceptions of the other characters and their situations. Readers gradually gain knowledge of how each character connects to the story line and each other. This adds depth and complexity. While Meredith and John provide the main points of view, several antagonists and secondary characters are also featured. Several are flawed in some way, but that only made them feel more realistic. There is a handy character list at the beginning of the book.

The premise of the story felt all too real to me, making it thought provoking and believable. From the shocking prologue to the tension-filled middle to the action-filled conclusion, this story captivated me. The author has created an adrenaline-fueled work of spy fiction with plenty of action and thrills. This well-written novel has an absorbing plot that builds suspense and is memorable. It features deception, trust, betrayal, deaths, and espionage. Blending these with political hierarchy within the CIA, and Iran’s military structure and Russian interference makes for a spellbinding tell. The author is an excellent storyteller who kept me on the edge of my seat and rapidly turning the pages. He balanced the suspense aspects of the novel against the intrigue and action scenes. There are plot twists that provide some startling moments in the story. The tradecraft felt authentic and this is likely due to the author’s intelligence background. The novel takes readers from Virginia to Iran to Iraq to Turkey to the United Arab Emirates. My one quibble was with the world-building, which didn’t give me a good feeling for the locations at times.

Overall, this book was intense, fast-paced, action-oriented, and a powerful page-turner. This novel should delight those readers that enjoy spy thrillers that have strong male and female characters, intense fight scenes, and an absorbing plot. If you are looking for action, drama, and tension, this book will provide it. A few threads could provide story lines for future novels. This debut is excellent and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

Berkley Publishing Group – Berkley and M.P. Woodward provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for May 31, 2022.

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