The Unlikely Spy

[Amazon Link]

Spurred by a John J. Miller article at National Review, I picked up a Kindle version of Daniel Silva's first novel for the unlikely price of $1.99! (Nowadays it goes for $4.99, which is still a pretty good deal.)

It's a World War 2 spy thriller, centered around one of the war's big secrets: where the Allies planned to invade France in 1944. The Germans are deeply (and correctly) suspicious of the quality of information they're getting from their existing spy network, so they activate one of their sleeper agents, "Catherine", a deadly and beautiful woman working as a nurse. She targets a young widower American engineer; he's been recruited to work on massive concrete structures, the Mulberry artificial harbors. The Nazis don't know what they're for, but if they figure it out, it could be an important clue, leading to the defeat of the invasion.

The "Unlikely Spy" is history professor Alfred Vicary, personally recruited by Churchill to ferret out agents like Catherine. What ensues is a cat-vs-rat thriller, eventually resulting in a high-seas shootout. Lots of violence, some sex, and a twisty ending you might not see coming. (I detected that there would be a twist, but didn't know what it was.)

There's an interesting mix of real characters (Churchill, Hitler, Himmler, Canaris) underlying the fiction. Much of the subtrefuge related in the book actually happened, too. (For example, Patton's First United States Army Group and MI5's Double-Cross System.) The fictional characters are well-crafted, even the Nazis are recognizably human. Well, except for Hitler and Himmler. Understandably.

Yes, we know how it comes out. Allies win. This doesn't detract from the book, it's still a fine page-turner (or screen-swiper).

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 20:17 is pretty good:

17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet,
    but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

I would hope so.

■ Another day, another horror, another round of predictable knees jerking. Brian Doherty at Reason asks: How Could Anyone Deny the Need for Tougher and More Stringently Enforced Gun Laws in the Wake of the Vegas Slaughter?

To resist an instant call to more or tougher gun laws or enforcement in the wake of terrors like Vegas, you need to understand it is not only that existing laws and regulations will not reliably prevent such crimes as long as guns exist. All the new or expanded national gun control laws advocated as sensible and necessary would have had no effect on horrible crimes such as occurred in Las Vegas last night, even if perfectly enforced, as Jacob Sullum explained at Reason earlier today. (Nor, it seems to me, would wider skilled civilian possession of guns likely done much good in this particular scenario. Hard as it is to admit, some tragedies are not meaningfully preventable.)

This is grown-up thinking. Here's the opposite, from my own CongressCritter, Carol Shea-Porter:


■ George F. Will asks: Is the Supreme Court about to plunge into a political thicket?

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments tempting it to plunge into an impenetrable political thicket. It will consider a lower court’s ruling that, if allowed to stand, will require the judiciary to determine whether and when partisanship in drawing electoral districts — something as old as the Constitution — is unconstitutional. And courts will wrestle repeatedly with cases requiring them to decide how to decide how much partisanship is too much.

Gee, that sounds like a swell idea. Once again, I recommend my own crackpot idea to obviate gerrymandering.

■ Tom Petty died, and that's sad, especially since he was only a few months older than I am. But Monty Hall also passed away, and that got me thinking about the Monty Hall problem, Marilyn vos Savant, and how many smart people made fools of themselves: The Time Everyone “Corrected” the World’s Smartest Woman.

Despite its deceptive simplicity, some of the world’s brightest minds -- MIT professors, renowned mathematicians, and MacArthur “Genius” Fellows -- have had trouble grasping [the Monty Hall problem's] answer. For decades, it has sparked intense debates in classrooms and lecture halls.

As one of the experts quoted says: "Our brains are just not wired to do probability problems very well."

■ This is Pun Salad, and Halloween is a'coming, so we would be remiss if we did not point you to 26 Punny Halloween Costume Ideas From a Pun Champion. All guaranteed to induce moans. For example:

13. Wear a sign that says Route 666. When people point out the extra 6 as a mistake, correct them by saying “No, I’m the Route of All Evil.”

I'll be dressed as usual: small-town homeowner wishing he had a moat.

■ And your tweet du jour: