Book Review: Muir’s Gambit
Reviewed by Manik Chaturmutha
A chilling tale of espionage and intelligence operations around the Cold War
Muir’s Gambit by Michael Frost Beckner takes the reader on a wild ride through sneaky undercover operations and assassinations. Equal parts thrilling and mesmerizing, this historical spy novel is sure to keep readers spellbound.
The story begins with the assassination of a CIA veteran aboard his private yacht. But the dying man’s final words implicate the CIA spy, Nathan Muir.
Agency Director Troy Folger takes this as a chance to kill two birds with one stone. He assigns legal counsel Russel Aiken to pin the murder on Muir and rid the CIA of several unsavory post-war secrets.
But reeling from a crime of passion, Aiken treats the assignment as a getaway. He embarks on a journey to elicit a confession from the man he admires and resents at the same time.
Muir is the father, brother, and mentor to Aiken. However, he kept Aiken from the field agent’s position he longed for the most. An intoxicated conversation between the two spans backstairs deals, real-world incidents, and personal conflicts. Muir talks of working in Korea, Cyprus, and various other operations. He also reminisces about recruiting Aiken and Tom Bishop and grooming them for multiple roles at the CIA. Hovering on the brink of dangerous revelations, Muir’s Gambit exposes the dark underbelly of intelligence operations, crimes, and Cold War politics.
This novel has a circular and engaging narrative. Interspersed with conversations and internal monologues, it gives the reader a glimpse into the deepest thoughts of Muir and Aiken, enabling readers to make their own conclusions about the true nature and vulnerability at hand.
Beckner makes several unconventional observations throughout the novel, providing a fresh perspective. For instance, “In Muir’s heaven, Hitler is welcome.” Muir believes that hell is a human construct, a deception operation run on society by the evilest to spread fear and, in turn, to give them the power to weaken their targets with doubt. It prompts the reader to think beyond the typical definition of good and evil.
The narrative is also punctuated with several real-life incidents such as the Korean War, Tiananmen Square protests, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. These provide food for thought to history enthusiasts and they add touches of realism to the plot.
But sometimes the narrative can get a bit confusing. The point of view switches from Muir to Aiken without much indication, and it can take time to decipher the change. The resolution of this plot is expected to be revealed in the next books in the series, so those who are looking for explosiveness in this book’s final pages may not find it here. But it does provide space for the readers to envision a probable conclusion.
All in all, Muir’s Gambit remains gripping and action-packed. It has just the right amount of mystery and suspense with good pacing. People wishing for an espionage story with real-world incidents would benefit from giving this promising new series a shot.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Espionage
Print Length: 404 pages
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