The Spy Devils – Joe Goldberg: Book Review

  Joe Goldberg, a former spy, brings a groundbreaking entry into the espionage action thriller genre with The Spy Devils. This new release dives into the logistically detailed, realistic and grim subgenre of covert operations filled with corporate espionage, techno-intrigue, organized crime, problem fixers, in a plot about an intelligence coup that’s flowing with chaos. 


   Bridger, the rogue and cunning protagonist of the story, leads a team of talented misfits named The Spy Devils who take down all kinds of evil elements in the world while still being on the side of their country. His team, which comprises a bloodthirsty old black ops veteran, a former special forces operator, a former cop, two tech geniuses, and a theatrical makeup expert, is a riot of fun who never lose their sense of humor even in the middle of pulling their intricately complex schemes and operations. Their leader, the enigmatic Bridger, is a legendary character who’s loaded with awesomeness and is sure to make its mark on the genre. 


   The Spy Devils team use their tricks to collect intelligence and expose their targets on social media platforms to turn their secretive adversaries into trendy content which gets picked up by the media, and causes a more permanent blow than merely killing them. This technique is mastered by Bridger over a life spent honing his cunning, mentored by his spymaster who also happens to be his mother, and financed by his late father’s wealth which he inherited. He also confiscates the wealth of his targets to fuel his team that stays in anonymity through layers of shell corporations to handle their logistics. Bridger’s spymaster, i.e. his mother who’s a senior ringleader in Langley, is a character more twisted than him and the events of the plot pits them in a game of wits where nothing is what it seems. 


   Though the team relies on outsmarting their targets like Ocean’s team of conmen, they are still deadly as hell. Their unique, awesome, yet believable technologies like the Devil Stick, the DevilBots, and other gadgets are a treat for techno thriller fans and would also entertain fans of G.I. Joe, DC, and Marvel comics. Not to be confused with any sort of heroism, this is a mind-bending, smart, and maniacally fun ride that’s a constant clusterf@#$ for the cunning and twisted characters who have a heavy moral ambiguity. The action is brutal, bloody, and sometimes overly gory when chaotic, and sometimes quick and orchestrated when planned, but it’s fresh in ways that longtime fans of the genre will love. 


   The plot starts with a corporate executive being thrown to his death off the balcony of his hotel suite in Kiev, and the scene sets the tone for the darkly wild comedy, constant twists and subversions, and sheer chaos that is woven in an experienced narrative throughout. Though this is the author’s fiction debut, it certainly doesn’t read like the work of a first-time author. A case carried by the now dead executive is stolen and the thieves get killed on their gateway route by others who take the case. This case, with unknown contents that don’t really matter, causes a series of killings, manipulations, extortions, in a large scale ploy at pulling an intel coup within the Chinese MSS, and connects an American technology company, the CIA, a corporate intelligence firm, organized crime groups in Ukraine and Serbia, Chinese assassins, hackers, bankers, and Bridger’s Spy Devils in an overcomplicated plot that is remarkable in its execution and fun like a mix of a Luc Besson and Denis Villeneuve movie that’ll stay in your head. 


   Though the story gets grim at times, it’s also darkly humorous in ways serious action thrillers never dare to go. Beyond the laughs and dark parts of this book, The Spy Devils shows a whole side of covert operations that don’t get enough attention in the fiction industry – corporate espionage – which has more potential to be entertaining, thought-provoking, antiheroic or morally ambiguous, and smarter than the stereotypical country vs country, spy vs spy, formulaic plots overflowing in fiction. Maybe Joe Goldberg could start a trend with action thriller authors leaning towards the corporate side of espionage entertainment in the coming years. 


   The plot flows from Taiwan to the US and to Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and back in a fast-paced narrative with multiple major characters and most of them don’t survive the story. Fueled by vengeance after the death of a teammate, Bridger doesn’t give into being a pawn in the games of power players who risk many people’s lives, and yet he does not go all out in a Frank Castle style killing spree, and instead chooses to be smart within the complicated chaos he’s in to solve the hard problems in the least disastrous ways like a responsible person caught between difficult choices in the world of espionage. Despite all the adversities to the team, Bridger and the Spy Devils are still awesome, roguishly fun, and smarter than most action thriller protagonists, though they regularly keep joking like lunatics. 


   The settings like Taiwan, and mainly around Eastern Europe in Serbia and Ukraine are shown in a vividly descriptive narrative which clearly points to on the ground experience or at least that level of research. Though the plot is based on true events that are fictionalized in an entertaining narrative for security reasons, it’s still fun like most commercial movies, although a lot smarter. Fans of action and spy thrillers, the TV comedy show Archer, and the connoisseurs of serious black ops based thrillers hungry for something new and boldly outrageous will like The Spy Devils and watch for the sequels from the author Joe Goldberg. 

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