The essence of the spy thriller again reflects in its intrigue but as with another book read directly after it (Flamingo Lane), the author (retaining and remarking on their own fictional life) seems to want to put him or herself (depending on the scenario) in the middle of the action. While this makes sense as it allows them (in a certain way) to see through the character’s eyes, it nonetheless can be a grinder. The aspect of being identifiable also leads the idea to being over dramatic (or melodramatic if you like) and self-serving. While this has a larger canvas than the previous book, the idea in “The Moroccan Girl” [Charles Cumming/St. Martin’s Press/368pgs] is no less contrived at certain points right down to the jilted lover or interest from before who has angles of gaining revenge of the woman that had wronged them. The difference that fuels this story is how paranoid (and at times whiny) the writer Carradine is in the story. If the key with many new novels is to create a character that you can run with (like Faye in “Flamingo Lane”), Lara Bartok is an even more interesting structure much like a female James Bond but with defection issues. The run/chase/relay she and Carradine do around Morocco has its moments but ultimately they survive because most of the other spy operatives are fairly inept which wouldn’t necessary be the case in a real life situatiob. The recruitment aspect of Carradine is the most relatable aspect outside of the character Bartok. And while trust is an important theme of the story, ultimately its drive is propelled by all the lies that are told. The resolution for all the bombast that leads up to the finale is fairly predicable in its eventual reveal although the author does motivate the latter half of the book with quite a few doublebacks. Bartok, as a fact of reference, reminds one of what Marion Ravenwood would have been without the impact of Indiana Jones in her life: a woman who takes no prisoners…a franchise in and of herself. The book had definite potential but takes on the wrong origin story and wrong character lead focus per se.
By Tim Wassberg