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Miraflores -- Memoir of a Young Spy

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Loved it! 😍

An intelligent coming of age story about a young CIA agent sent to Panama in the late 1950s, where falling in love may be a deadly mistake.

Miraflores is an atmospheric spy thriller about a young CIA agent sent to late 1950s Panama , who falls in love with a beautiful student agitator. I was invited to read and review this for the Reedsy Discovery programme, and am glad I accepted as I wouldn’t have selected this on my own, but very much enjoyed it. Presented as an unpublished manuscript of a memoir discovered by his children after his death, this is narrated in the faintly regretful tone of an older and wiser man looking back at the folly of his youth. The author’s note at the end explains that this is a fictional story, set against the backdrop of real events, which added a layer of interest for me, as this was a period of modern history I know very little about.


Nick Halliday joins the CIA to spite his father, whom he blames for the suicide of his alcoholic mother. Posted to Panama City, he poses as a professor of English Literature and infiltrates a group of students protesting the American ownership of the famous canal. He falls hopelessly in love with Maria, and convinces her of his liberal sympathies, but when idealistic demonstrations spill over into violence, Nick must decide whose side he is really on. 


For a relatively short novel, this took a while to get going, as Nick relates the troubles of his late adolescence, his struggles to choose a career and machinations to ensure he gets deployed over the objections of his father, so we’re well into the book before he actually arrives in Panama. I found my sympathies shifting - Nick means well but willingly subverts his mission to indulge his infatuation, and like him, we never really know whether Maria truly returns his feelings - I thought this was cleverly done. Similarly, while this is a story about a spy, it is not a typical espionage adventure - the CIA are not the good guys here, as jaded older agents play callous games with innocent lives. 


This was well written, other than some split infinitives and incorrect adverbs, and I liked the descriptions of Panama as seen through Nick’s rather naive eyes. I didn’t predict how things would turn out, but liked the way it ended realistically. Recommended if you realise that this really isn’t a love story, but is more of an intelligent belated coming of age tale.

Reviewed by

I’m English but have lived in NZ for 19 years.
I’ve always been a serious reader, and have been reviewing on GoodReads for years, but in the past few years have developed my reviewing through NetGalley and now Reedsy. I mostly read mysteries and thrillers, although enjoy other genres in between.

About the author

I have more than thirty years experience in journalism and publishing, including long stints with The Boston Globe and The New England Journal of Medicine. This is my sixth novel; my last one — VALLEY OF SPIES — was named one of Kirkus’ Best Indie Mysteries, Crime Stories and Thrillers of 2019. view profile

Published on December 01, 2020

Published by

80000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Espionage

Reviewed by