Spy Act by Keri Culver
MI6 operative Nathalie Qadir has the head of a terrorist financing organisation in her sights. But she’s bound and shackled on a cargo plane somewhere over eastern Turkey, and mocking her captors hasn’t gotten her anywhere.
After indulging briefly in self-pity and desolation (of the “Oh heavens, I’m going to die” variety), she hears an adamant voice in her head. This isn’t over, the voice says. You’ll survive, all right, and this time you’ll stop the organisation for good.
She doesn’t know yet that her boss at MI6 has set up an ambush at the landing point, ready to steal the plane’s cargo and kill everyone inside – including her. But it’s better she doesn’t know. If she did, she would certainly leave the Service.
And what then? Go back to styling hair and acting in community theatre? That Nathalie died eight years ago, when she unwittingly aided a group of young Arab men (“my boys,” she had called them) in their three-pronged suicide attack on her native London. The little voice that had saved her then was just as insistent today: quit whinging, find a way out, and, for God’s sake, stop the next attack.
The little voice will have to get her through that ambush, too.
Spy Act is complete at 78,000 words. Fans of spy classics like 007 or Le Carré will barely recognise Nathalie’s 21st-century espionage, unless they can imagine Smiley crossed with one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels.
The Book Doctors:
This is a really fun idea for a book and you clearly know the genre. We like your character by the end of the first paragraph and that’s really hard to do. But the pitch feels a little flat to us. It reads a bit like a book report. Your first sentence should be super exciting, but we don’t feel any real danger there. Like you’re describing action instead of showing it, and putting us in the middle of it. We don’t get a full enough sense of what the plot is and the twists contained therein. So the story feels a bit thin. You’re on the right track with your comparable titles, but Janet Evanovitch, James Bond and Le Carre are so giant that they can do more harm than good. It would be better if you dug down further into spy category to trot out how very much about the category you know. This kind of knowledge impresses agents and publishers and gives them the confidence that you know where your book fits on the shelf.