Just last month I was voicing my frustration with the international intrigue/espionage thriller. Let me be clear, W.E.B. Griffin is an exception to that rant. His Charley Castillo books have sucked me in. They blaze at a breakneck pace and are chock full of great characters.
Underlying the multitude of characters is the constant clash of politics versus progress, of bureaucratic protocol versus cooperation. But Charley Castillo gets around it because he’s working directly for the President, which doesn’t always guarantee him the cooperation of the CIA, FBI, NSA, or State Department, but makes for a ton of fun. This book is jam-packed with dialog and the best parts are when characters from different agencies engage in macho verbal battles highlighting natural turf wars – wars that I’m guessing are pretty darn accurate based on Griffin’s cred as an insider. In fact, there is more oral sparring than gunfights, resulting in a very intelligent thriller.
The bottom line for me, and this Presidential Agent series of books, is that Griffin has developed a huge amount of interesting characters that I like. Let me give you some examples. Castillo’s boss will go to bat for him no matter what; he’s the type of boss you always want. Fernando, Castillo’s civilian brother, regularly gets dragged into government operations and is constantly giving his brother a hard time. The marine that shuttles Castillo around in Argentina has a freaky amount of knowledge of Argentinean history and won’t stop calling Castillo “sir,” despite Castillo’s pleading. Heck, Castillo has even befriended an international criminal from Russia, now living in Argentina, who shares much needed information with Castillo that Castillo can’t get through normal channels, in return for certain favors of course. This is just a cool group of people. Then there’s Castillo’s love interest, and her obnoxious brother, both of whom add more twists. The list goes on, and on, and on…
I’ve read two of them and they are near-perfect thrillers. I’m ready for the next one.