Author: Charles McCarry
Publication Date: 2004
Publisher: The Overbrook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.
Source of Book: Public Library
In his magnificent new novel, McCarry returns to the world of his legendary character, Paul Christopher, the superior intelligence agent as skilled at choosing a fine wine as he is at tradecraft, at once sophisticated and dangerous, and no stranger to the world of dirty tricks. As the novel begins, Paul, now a remarkably fit 70ish, is dining at home with his cousin, Horace, also an ex-agent. Dinner is delicious and uneventful. A day later, Paul has vanished. Months pass and his ashes are delivered by a Chinese official to the American consulate in Beijing, and a memorial service is held in Washington. But Horace is not convinced that Paul is dead and, enlisting the support of five other retired colleagues–a sort of all-star backfield of the old Outfit–he gets the “Old Boys” back in the game to find Paul Christopher.
They start with a photo found in Paul’s study: a woman’s hand holding a centuries-old scroll, once the possession of the Nazis and now sought by the U.S. government and Muslim extremists alike. Harassed by American intelligence, hunted by terrorists, Horace and the Old Boys travel the globe, from Xingjiang to Brasil, from Rome to Tel-Aviv, Budapest to Moscow, on a thrilling and dangerous search for Paul Christopher and the unspeakably dangerous truth.
(Source of Blurb: Inside front dust cover.)
I read “Old Boys” based on a suggestion in a tweet by David Morrell on the occasion of Charles McCarry’s death. Morrell suggested TEARS OF AUTUMN, but “Old Boys” was the only McCarry book available to me in my local library system. This novel is flawed, but it was certainly entertaining and provided a glimpse into an amazing mind. I am sorry I never discovered McCarry until now.
My favorite part of the book was McCarry’s premise that a scroll existed alleging that Jesus Christ was actually an unwitting agent in a Roman dirty trick operation to undermine the Jewish priesthood. I believe McCarry was writing this premise in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, but his description of the contents of the scroll was truly amazing, and the result of a great mind at work. There is a chapter in the midsection of the book in which the protagonist reads a translation of this scroll. This was incredibly entertaining. McCarry had a great deal of fun while writing this chapter.
His characters were very well-developed, albeit a bit repetitious. A mysterious character named “Kevin” who showed up at various points in the book was my favorite.
The book had a number of flaws. The procession of characters was difficult to follow, perhaps due to some inattentive reading. The number of locations throughout the book seemed artificially inflated. There was a dowsing scene (yes, I had to look that word up) that seemed like a bit of deus ex machina to me. The scene truly came out of nowhere, and it seemed very much out of place. Most of what followed hinged on that scene, which made it very disconcerting. McCarry’s take on the life of Jesus, however, makes this a must-read.
I do look forward to reading TEARS OF AUTUMN
Link to Author’s Website: Non