Twice a Spy

Twice a Spy

by Keith Thomson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307473158
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/2012
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 386,995
Product dimensions: 4.30(w) x 6.88(h) x 1.21(d)

About the Author

KEITH THOMSON is a former semipro baseball player in France, an editorial cartoonist for Newsday, a filmmaker with a short film shown at Sundance, and a screenwriter who currently lives in Alabama. He writes on intelligence and other matters for the Huffington Post.

Read an Excerpt


"Do you see a ghost?" Alice asked.

"You'd know if I did because I'd mention it." Charlie fixated on someone or something behind her, rather than meet her eyes as he usually did. "Or faint."

"Ghost is trade lingo for someone you take for a surveillant, but, really, he's just an ordinary Joe. When you have to look over your shoulder as much as we have the past couple of weeks, it's only natural that everybody starts seeming suspicious. You imagine you've seen one of them before. It's hard to find anybody who doesn't look like he works for Interpol."

"Interpol would be an upgrade." Charlie laughed a stream of vapor into the thin Alpine air. "After the past couple of weeks, it's hard to find anybody who doesn't look like a veteran hit man."

Charlie Clark owned no Hawaiian shirts. He didn't chomp on a cigar. In no way did he match anyone's conception of a horseplayer: He was a youthful thirty with a pleasant demeanor and strong features in spite of Alice's efforts to alter them--a brown wig hid his sandy blond hair, fake sideburns and a silicone nose bridge blunted the sharp contours of his face, and oversized sunglasses veiled his intelligent blue eyes. But--tragically, Alice thought--until being thrust on the lam two weeks ago, Charlie had spent 364 days a year at racetracks. And that number would have been 365 if tracks didn't close on Christmas Day. He lived for the thrill not merely of winning but of being right. As he'd often said: "Where else besides the track can you get that?"

So why, Alice wondered, had his attention veered from the race?

Especially this race, a "white turf" mile with thoroughbreds blazing around a course dug from sparkling snow atop the frozen Lac de Morat in Avenches, Switzerland, framed by hills that looked like they had been dispensed by a soft-serve ice cream machine, sprinkled with chalets, and surrounded by blindingly white peaks. Probably it was on an afternoon just like this in 1868 that the British adventurer Edward Whymper said of Switzerland, "However magnificent the imagination may be, it always remains inferior to reality."

And Edward Whymper didn't have a horse poised to take the lead.

Flying past four of the nine entries, Charlie's choice, Poser Le Lapin, spotted a gap between the remaining two.

Knowing almost nothing about the horses besides their names, Charlie had taken a glance at the auburn filly during the post parade and muttered that her turndowns--iron plates bent toward the ground at a forty-five-degree angle on the open end of the horseshoes--would provide better traction than the other entrants' shoes today.

Alice followed his sight line now, up from the snowy track apron where they stood and into the packed grandstand. Ten thousand heads pivoted at once as the horses thundered around the oval.

It was odd that Charlie wasn't watching the race. More than odd. Like an eight-year-old walking past a candy store without a glance.

The horses charged into the final turn. Alice saw only a cloud of kicked-up snowflakes and ice. As the cloud neared the grandstand, the jockeys came into view, their face masks bobbing above the haze. A moment later, the entire pack of thoroughbreds was visible. Cheers from the crowd drowned out the announcer's rat-a-tat call.

Poser Le Lapin crossed the wire with a lead of four lengths.

Alice looked to Charlie expecting elation. He remained focused on the grandstand behind him, via the strips of mirrored film she'd glued inside each of his lenses--an old spook trick.

"Your horse won, John!" she said, using his alias.

He shrugged. "Every once in a while, I'm right."

"Don't tell me the thrill is gone."

"At the moment, I'm hoping to be wrong."

A chill crept up her. "Who is it?"

"Guy in a red ski hat, top of the grandstand, just under the Mercedes banner, drinking champagne."

She shifted her stance, as if to watch the trophy presentation like everyone else. Really she looked into the "rearview mirrors" inside her own sunglasses.

The red ski hat was like a beacon.

"I see him. What, you think it's weird that he's drinking champagne?"

"Well, yeah, because it's, like, two degrees out."

Alice usually put great stock in Charlie's observational skill. During their escape from Manhattan, in residential Morningside Heights, he'd pegged two men out of a crowd of hundreds as government agents when they slowed at a curb for a sign changing to don't walk; real New Yorkers sped up. But after two harrowing weeks of being hunted by spies and misguided lawmen who shot first and asked questions later, anyone would see ghosts, even an operator with as much experience as she had.

"Sweetheart, half the people here are drinking champagne."

"Yeah, I know--the Swiss Miss commercials sure got Switzerland wrong. The thing is the red hat."

"Is there something unusual about it?"

"No. But he was wearing a green hat at lunch."


The man in the blood-red knitted ski cap looked as if he were in his late twenties. Gaunt and pallid, he was Central Casting's idea of a doctoral candidate. Which hardly ruled him out as an assassin. Since he had been dragged into this mess two weeks ago, the killers Charlie had eluded had been disguised as a jocular middle-aged insurance salesman, a pair of wet-behind-the-ears lawyers, and a fresh fruit vendor on the Lower East Side.

"You're sure you saw him at the café?" Alice asked.

"When I doubled back to our table to leave the tip, I noticed him in the corner, flagging the waitress all of a sudden. What's that spook saying about coincidences?"

"There are none?"


"I never say that. The summer I was eleven, I got a Siamese cat. I named him Rockford. A few weeks later, I started a new school, and there was another girl who had a Siamese cat named Rockford. Coincidence or what?"

"I always wondered about that saying."

"In any case, why don't we go toast your win?"

One of their exit strategies commenced with a walk to the nearest concession stand. "I would love a drink, actually," Charlie said.

Leaving the track apron, they stepped into a long corridor between the rear of the grandstand and Lac de Morat's southern bank. While his nerves verged on exploding, she retained her character's bounce. In fact, if he hadn't been in the same room this morning when she was getting dressed, he might not recognize her now. She remained a stunning woman despite a drab wig and a prosthetic nose that called to mind a plastic surgeon's "before" photo. Ordinarily she moved like a ballerina. Now the thick parka, along with the marble she'd placed in her right boot, spoiled her stride. And her sunglasses, relatives of the ski goggle family, concealed her best feature, bright green eyes that blazed with whimsy or, at times, inner demons.

No one else was in the corridor. But would anyone fall in behind them?

Charlie's heart pounded so forcefully that he could barely hear the crunching of his boots through the snow.

Sensing his unease, Alice took his hand. Or maybe there was more to it than that. Twelve days ago, caring only that he and his father were innocent, she decided to help them flee the United States in direct defiance of her superiors at the National Security Agency. "Girlfriend" was just her cover then. Their first night in Europe, however, it became reality. Since then, their hands had gravitated into each other's even without a threat of surveillance.

She steadied him now.

He recalled the fundamental guiding principle of countersurveillance, which she'd taught him: See your pursuers, but don't let them know you see them.

The spooked-up sunglasses--part mirror, and, to the uninitiated, part kaleidoscope--made it difficult to find a specific person behind him, or for that matter a specific section of grandstand. He fought the urge to peer over his shoulder. As little as a backward glance would be enough for the man in the red hat to smell blood.

"See anything?" Charlie muttered.

"Not yet." Alice laughed as if he'd just told a joke.

They came to a white cabana tent with a peaked top. Inside, a rosy and suitably effervescent middle-aged couple popped corks and filled plastic flutes with the same champagne whose logo adorned banners all around the racecourse. Falling into place at the end of the small line enabled Charlie and Alice to, quite naturally, turn and take in their environs: Thirty or forty white-turf fans wandered among the betting windows, Port-o-Lets, and a dozen other concessions tents.

No man in the red hat.

And the corridor behind the grandstand remained vacant.

Charlie felt only the smallest measure of relief. Their tail might have passed them to another watcher. Or put cameras on them. Or fired microscopic transponders into their coats. Or God knew what.

"Sorry about this," Charlie said.

"About what?" Alice seemed carefree. Part of which was her act. The rest was a childhood so harrowing and a career full of so many horrors that she rarely experienced fear now. If ever.

"Talking you into coming here."

"Knock it off. It's breathtaking."

"To a track, I mean. It was idiotic."

"Hermits are conspicuous. We have to get out some of the time."

"Just not to racetracks. Of course they'd be watching racetracks."

"Switzerland has an awful lot of racetracks, not to mention all the little grocery stores that double as offtrack betting parlors. And there's no reason to think that anyone even knows we're in Europe. Also this isn't exactly a racetrack. It's a course on a frozen lake--who knew such a thing existed?"

"They know. They always do."

"They" were the so-called Cavalry, the Central Intelligence Agency black ops unit pursuing Charlie and his father, Drummond Clark. Two weeks ago, after the various assassins all failed their assignments, the Cavalry framed the Clarks for the murder of U.S. national security adviser Burton Hattemer, enabling the group to request the assistance of Interpol and a multitude of other agencies. With no way to prove their innocence, the Clarks knew they wouldn't stand a chance in court. Not that it mattered. The Cavalry would avoid the hassle of due process and "neutralize" them before a gavel was raised.

Readying a twenty-franc note for two flutes of champagne, Alice advanced in line. "Look, if they're really that good, they're going to get us no matter what, so better here than a yodeling hall."

She could always be counted on for levity. It was one of the things Charlie loved about her. One of about a hundred. And he barely knew her.

He was wondering how to share the sentiment when a young blonde emerged from the corridor behind the grandstand, a Golden Age starlet throwback in a full-length mink. Breathing hard, perhaps from having raced to catch up to them. Or maybe it was the basset hound, in matching mink doggie jacket, wrenching her forward by his expensive-looking leather leash.

Clasping Charlie's shoulder, Alice pointed to the dog. "Is he the most adorable thing you've ever seen or what?"

Charlie realized that pretending not to notice the dog would look odd. Acting natural was part of Countersurveillance 101. The best he could muster was "I've always wanted a schnauzer."

"Why a schnauzer?" Alice asked.

All he knew about the breed was that it was a kind of dog.

The starlet looked at them, her interest apparently piqued.

"I just like the sound of schnauzer," Charlie said.

The woman continued past as a slovenly bald man stumbled out of a Port-o-Let, directly into her path. She smiled at him.

Women like her don't smile at guys like that, Charlie thought. Especially with Port-o-Lets in the picture.

Alice noticed it too. She yawned. "Well, what do you say we head back to Geneva?"

Charlie knew this really meant leave for Gstaad, sixty miles from Geneva.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Twice a Spy 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
sued5320 More than 1 year ago
Picks up where Once A Spy ended. A retired spy with Alzheimer's (Drummond Clark) on the run with his son (Charlie Clark). Dad has snippets of clarity, always at just the right time. If you're looking for a completely believable story, this isn't it. (After all, it is Fiction.) I very much like this author's writing style - it flows well. Enough detail to keep it interesting without being cumbersome. However, I do admit to being a bit lost once or twice. I had to go back up a few pages, thinking I missed something. All in all a good read, but reading Once A Spy first is a must.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
This espionage thriller keeps you on your seat, but if you haven't read the first book, Once A Spy, you may be a little confused like I was. Charlie Clark is on the run with his ex-spy father who has Alzheimer's disease. While trying to find a way to show that they are innocent, Charlie's girlfriend, Alice who happens to work for the NSA is kidnapped. This novel is filled with a lot of spy stuff and with relationship issues as Charlie learns more about his dad. I would have enjoyed this more if I had read the first book.
gl More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Twice a Spy partly for the spycraft which was fascinating and fun, but largely because of the father-son interplay. What would it have been like to have had 007 or an elder Jason Bourne as your father? Charlie Clark is finding out just that - except his father is in the early stages of dementia. So it takes some understanding, creativity, and patience to get the elder Clark to reveal his techniques, his craft, and his secrets. The father-son dynamic and Drummond Clark's dementia add a certain levity and sadness to the novel and make Twice a Spy a particularly enjoyable read. If you are partial to spy novels and thrillers, don't miss Keith Thomson's Twice a Spy! ISBN-10: 9780385530798 - Hardcover Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (March 8, 2011), 336 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
Twice A Spy is not twice as good. But it is twice now that I read a book because the author blurbs on the cover were by authors I liked, and it is twice now that those authors have disappointed me. Twice A Spy is a hard read as it is mostly just silly. The author's need to write in a comic way turned me off. Now, those pre-publication books that get all the good reviews might have been more fun, I don't know. I never get one.
hardcharger More than 1 year ago
On a scale of 1-10 with WEB Griffin, Joseph Wambaugh, Daniel Silva, Tom Clancy, Robert Crais a 10 I rate this a 2/10. The plot is good however too much fantasy in this horrid book. I am finding it difficult to push through, have only read half of it and frankly it sucks.
RNichols More than 1 year ago
Advanced Copy Review: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest meets The Bourne Ultimatum. The story/plot line was magically crafted, how you weave Alzheimer's into a spy tale I'll never know, but the father and son duo are a hit. I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in the series. I would recommend reading the first book Once a Spy before reading this one, things will flow much better for you. I am now a super fan of Keith Thomson and can't wait for the next installment. Give this author a shot, I promise you will not be disappointed.
UnderMyAppleTree on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Ex-spy Drummond Clark and his son Charlie are back with another adventure in Twice a Spy.After successfully eluding CIA agents intent on neutralizing them, they are now hiding out in Switzerland where Drummond is receiving experimental treatment for Alzheimer¿s disease. Just when they think they might get some rest and relaxation, Charlie¿s girlfriend, Alice is kidnapped by a group of bad guys who want Drummond to provide the location of a nuclear device they think he has hidden in Martinique. Meanwhile the CIA is still searching for them and they are now facing criminal charges if they go back to America.This is the sequel to Once a Spy which I reviewed last month. It¿s not necessary to read the first book to enjoy this one. The author does a nice job inserting background information when needed. Simply put, Drummond Clark, a retired appliance salesman, was a CIA spy who possesses sensitive information that could be deadly if it falls into the wrong hands. A group within the CIA feels he can¿t be trusted due to his failing memory and wants to eliminate him and also his son, Charlie.This book is a quick, enjoyable read with short chapters, and non-stop action. As in the first book there are lots of things blowing up, car chases, boat chases (we end up in the Caribbean) and shots fired. More a satire than a serious thriller, this book is a lot of fun and would make a good summer read.
Draak on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Drummond and his son Charlie are back at another fast paced action adventure this time not only running from the people who want to kill them but also having to rescue Alice. The payment is they have to find a WMD in a washing machine that Drummond used as a cover. Not knowing when Drummonds mind would remember or who were their friends was driving Charlie crazy. If you don't know who Charlie, Drummond, or Alice are then you haven't read the first book Once A Spy. Do yourself a favor and start at the beginning with the first book. That way you can appreciate Twice A Spy. I can't wait for the next installment.
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I know i just joined earlier today but im quiting. Nothing ever happens. * walks away*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Girl are overrunning almost everything now." Said a boy around 18, who walked in and looked around." Hiya. I'm Grason."
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"Alright." She nods, and proceeds there.
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I'm interested in being in the research lab. *a black haired guy walks in.*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Buzzes on. Skandar's voice comes through. "Mike this is Skandar. Please come to the weapons lab. Ive got a lead on the orb." There is a buzz as the intercom shuts off.