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Friday, January 30, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 15.0° F  Fair
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A Book A Week: Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd

What I've always liked about William Boyd is that he never writes the same book twice. But now I've read two of his books in a row that were espionage thrillers, and I see from his website that he's been tapped to write a new James Bond novel. Too much of a good thing? I don't know.

It's not that Waiting for Sunrise (which wins most nondescript book title ever) is much like Restless, his 2007 novel about a retired Russian spy. But I like never quite knowing what I'm going to get from Boyd, and I hope he keeps us guessing, once he's done with the Bond thing.

Waiting for Sunrise features Lysander Rief, whose dual Austrian/British citizenship and his training as an actor provide him with skills that prove useful to the British army during World War I. Whether or not Lysander wants to employ his skills thusly is beside the point. British diplomats help him out of a dicey situation in Vienna; now in their debt, he must repay them by undertaking a series of dangerous jobs for which he is uniquely suited but not particularly enthusiastic.

I liked this spin on the "jaded spy" character who gains the upper hand over his puppet masters. Lysander is not so much jaded as just disinclined; he does his duty mostly because he knows he is over a barrel, and if he can screw with his handlers along the way, so much the better. And I always love it when help comes from unexpected quarters -- in this case from Lysander's eccentric retired Uncle Hamo (hero of the Boer War), who proves he's still a crack shot when Lysander needs him most.

Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.

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