||June 15, 2009
The story of a retired CIA agent who comes home to a wife and disabled son he hardly knows. His wife is tragically killed, and he is left wondering who will care for his son if dad dies first.
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When Dad becomes the lone caregiver for a dependent adult son, Dad has to answer the terrifying question: What happens if I die first?
If you like stories that pull at your heart and leave you in suspense, you’ll love my novel A SPY AT HOME. A retired CIA operative comes to believe he wasted his professional life not only promoting questionable American policies, but missing life with his family. After his wife dies in a tragic accident, he must learn all that she knew about caring for their mentally retarded son. After a life of planning for contingencies, the former spy must deal with the possibility that he may die before his son. Who will care for the son when the dad spent a life out of the country and now has no one to lean on?
It’s an ebook, available on Amazon.
A Spy At Home
Note To Reader:
Since youíre reading this, Iím dead. A great many years of my life I worked for the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency, for the federal government of the United States of America. I didnít say proudly worked, because I wasnít proudly serving the entire time. Donít yawn; you havenít read this one before. The book wonít self-destruct; this isnít the same reworded spy novel youíve read a dozen times where the hero does the right thing in the final scene and everyone good lives happily ever after and the bad guys go to jail. To be honest with you, I donít know how much spy stuff will be in this book. The important thing for you to know is that the authorís royalties from this book support Noah, my son. He was a surprise, but not the kind of surprise youíre thinking. Youíll meet him later, and I assure you everyone will like him. Everyone always does. Weíre complete opposites. Heís innocent, and Iím not.
As for me, youíll get to know me. Iíd really like to hear what you think about me, but I was too chickenshit to release this while I lived. Youíll have to judge me posthumously. Most people tell stories using themselves as the conquering hero. I tried not to do that; in fact, Iím certain you wonít conclude Iím any kind of hero. On the other hand, I hope you donít end up hating me. My excuse for not presenting this during my lifetime was National Security. You know the term that forgives all government workers for being dishonest and secretive.
In case I forget to say it later, thanks for the money. You paid me a lot of dough over the years for my salary, and one big lump sum, which youíll hear about in detail. Being a CIA operative means everything I do is covered under the veil of National Security. Donít worry; nothing youíre going to read will put any American agents in danger. Iíve been out of the game for a long time, and most of the governments I helped create or defeat have no one left alive who can figure out my real identity.
My job enters into this book some, well, a lot, but itís not really the point. I hope you think I ended up being a good person. My guess would be that most folks will see what I did in my job as acts of evil piled onto one another to build a temple to undermining decency. At the time, I acted for God and country, actually, just country because I donít believe in God. I was raised Catholic Ė before you ask, no, I wasnít molested by a priest. After touring the worst parts of the world, and seeing the worst side of humanity, I decided not to worship anything that had the power to rectify those cruelties and chose not to. Life is less complicated for me when I believe God simply doesnít exist.
Some of you might recognize part of this story from newspaper accounts in Nashville, Tennessee. Iím the guy who shot his wife; again, not for the reason(s) you think. Weíll cover that in detail, too. Youíll hate me for shooting someone who gave so much to the world and always thought of others. I hate myself for it.
I wrote some of the book and then came back to this note. You should be warned that this tale doesnít follow some chronology of events. Itís not some impossible to read stream of consciousness, but it is out of order.
My death happens at a shootout with a terrorist group from a small Middle Eastern country where I help thwart the terrorist groupís coup against the countryís President, who secretly sympathizes with Americaís precarious oil dependency. Just kidding Ė how in the hell could I possibly know that while Iím writing this? I probably die alone of some common disease in a nursing home with so many beds that all the patients become anonymous. Who cares? (Other than Noah if he survives me)
The Inscrutable Life of a Spy
The Number One lesson for a band, it is said, is to get off stage while the audience still wants you. A Spy At Home is like a Grisham novel exiting stage right just as the subconscious mind tells you this is not really fiction. I'm ready to read more by Joseph Rinaldo.
Spies like Garrison, the protagonist, have a tendency to become their legend, their claimed background or biography. They support it by documentation, memorization and years of life experience. They live what they project. One of Garrison's tradecrafts is moving and hiding large funds clandestinely. However, Garrison assumes caregiver responsibilities and that changes everything.
I was unsure whether Garrison is an unusually caring man or if so much of his time was window dressing. He could not easily have selected a better cover story to convince observers that what they are observing is genuine. My suspicions were confirmed that there would be a wet job well into the approximately 125-page story. Even now I think about this story and wonder where reality ends and fiction begins.
The intrigue, suspense, and drama of a spy with a loving family
Spy at Home is a story of an ex-CIA agent named Garrison, early forties, wife Louisa, a nurse and their adoped child. The story opens dramatically, as the couple are faced with a neighboring child whose mother has died in a trailer home fire. The baby has Down Syndrome. The opposite story involved aside of the spy life is the loving family side of the story that revolves around the care, support and guidance of living with a Down Syndrome child whose name is Noah.
This is not a story told chronologically, the events of family, vacationing, home life are interspersed with the intrigue and excitement of a CIA agent's life and work, smuggling arms to rebels, transferring millions of dollars, hiding the money, traveling to countries, living the good life and of course the danger.
The focus of the story is when Garrison's last assignment was to funnel support to the rebels of a small African country. This led to millions of dollars kept by CIA agent Garrison, who hid the money in another country. With his family, he had to travel to access it, figure out what to do with the money... like vacationing extravagantly each year in Martinique, a sanctuary in the Carribean island. With 9.5 million in a Swiss account, the next challenge is how to live without anybody knowing you have come into a large amount of money, how to donate millions to charity without putting up a red flag.
Eventually, they settled in Nashville, using up more money, taking special care of their growing son, Noah and the Special Olympics. And, again, buying a home in Martinique, and still figuring out how to safely spend some money! Yet more spy drama and suspense carry on, and then, of course, tragedy strikes.
The Spy at Home is well-written, dialogue believable, conflicting drama, and with very good characterization and development of all. One feels a deep association to the characters. And, as mentioned, this is not a chronological story, but well-done, and very organized. There is plenty to learn from this story, whether it is the CIA, or Down Syndrome. This story takes the reader into different worlds.
What would you do with (almost) ten million dollars?
Early in "A Spy at Home", husband and wife Garrison and Louisa are handed, in order, a baby and almost ten million dollars. The baby, Noah, is the only survivor of a house fire next door, and the couple make an instant decision to adopt him. Noah, it turns out, has Down Syndrome, but they happily accept the challenge and we watch Noah as he grows into an adult. The money's provenance is unclaimed funds from a CIA mission Garrison was on and the CIA thinks it went to a rebel leader who died. (No Nigerian spammer jokes now, please.) Garrison and Louisa need to figure out whether to keep the money, and if so, what to do with it.
Rinaldo introduces the story as Garrison's journal and it is told exclusively in the first-person from Garrison's point of view. As the characters grow, we learn a lot about what it's like to raise a Down's child and the good things and the not-so-good that come from it without feeling "preachy". The story spans decades and includes tragedy and triumph. Like "Citizen John", I found myself wondering how much of Rinaldo's life experience went into this book - it felt so very real and when it came to the end, I felt like I had lost a friend.
The "spy" part of the story is somewhat of a side plot, though it is interesting in its own right. We see Garrison on various missions, most of which put his life in danger. But the fallout of the failed rebel coup - the one that gave him access to the millions - haunts Garrison and his family even after he retires from the CIA.
Joe Rinaldo provided me with a copy of the book and asked me to review it here. It's not the sort of story I normally go for, being primarily a Science Fiction reader, but being a Kindle owner has opened me up to a wider selection and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. This is Rinaldo's first book and is self-published, so he did not have the advantage of a professional editor. His writing style is quite readable, but some of the dialog felt a bit more formal than I'd find believable, and the scattered (but minimal) sex scenes seemed out of place to me. This sort of thing is not at all unusual in a writer's early work - I recently read Jim Butcher's "Side Jobs" anthology which included his first "Harry Dresden" story. Butcher apologized for the lack of polish, but he didn't really need to. Neither does Joe Rinaldo need to apologize for the writing in "A Spy at Home" - he shows tremendous promise as a writer and I look forward to his getting even better with practice. His second book, Pirates and Politics, is available at Amazon and I'm headed there now to buy it.
Do yourself a favor and read "A Spy at Home". It's wonderful and I look forward to more from Joe Rinaldo.
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Reader Reviews for "A Spy At Home"
|Reviewed by Joseph Rinaldo
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