American Spy | Lauren Wilkinson

historical fiction | thriller | spy | espionage

First published 2020

book cover of American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson. Yellow cover with title in red letters and graphic image of a woman draped in the american flag





"I don't like to say what I've read. That's how you disclose the most about yourself."



The novel begins in the present day for Marie Mitchell, who is staying at her mother's house in Martinique with her two sons. The book then describes how she got to that present and what sacrifices she had to make along the way. 


Marie Mitchell works for the FBI as an intelligence officer. It's 1986 and the Cold War is in full swing. She's a brilliant, young, black female, working within the confines of an old boys' club and her career has stalled, with her being given monotonous tasks like paperwork and filing.

She's asked to join a task force that will be sent to Burkina Faso, where they will try to undermine the country's new, charismatic and revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara. His Communist ideologies have made him a target for American intervention, and Mitchell accepts the job, despite admiring what Sankara is trying to do for his country, and despite suspecting that she has only been chosen for the assignment based on her appearance and not on her talent.

Finding herself in the central role of trying to seduce Sankara so that America can (once again) interfere in another country's democratic processes for its own benefit, Mitchell begins to question her own beliefs. She plays a central role in the coup that overthrows Sankara (he was assassinated on October 15th, 1987 by Blaise Campaore, his best friend and political ally).

My Verdict: An exceptional debut novel and a very exciting thriller. I first heard about Thomas Sankara in Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie's novel, Americanah. I did a lot of reading up about him and I can totally see why the Americans (and the French) would want him out of the way. Statesmen of newly independent nations who want their countries to flourish without the help of the West are not to be trusted (obviously!) He could have been the leader that Burkina Faso and the entire continent needed (and wanted), but he was stopped before he could make the real changes needed. A person whose potential was never realised and the world is probably a sadder place for it. I really loved this book and think it could make a great film in the right hands. Can't wait to read more by Lauren Wilkinson in the future.

Review Award | 5/5

Posted 14.03.2021

blog and books logo, white spiral on grey background
instagram logo, black outline