Book Review: Tool of the Trade by Joe Haldeman

Nick Foley is a Soviet sleeper agent in America during the Cold War who has discovered a way to make almost anyone do anything he says, even kill themselves. The question is, can he stop the wrong people getting hold of the information on how to do it, and is he even the right person to hold it himself?

Tool of the Trade is mainly about the characters of Nick and his wife Valerie, it deals with Nick's past and how he became a spy through flashbacks to his grim childhood and training, and with his current life and what happens when his discovery is itself discovered. Through Nick there are many criticisms of both the Soviet government/KGB and of the way America is run as he can see the good and bad behind both systems.

Without spoiling too much, the section when Nick has to go on the run to protect himself is one of the best parts of the book, with full use made of how a sleeper agent would be trained to hide without having a sackload of James Bond gadgets, although his special knowledge is used to help. Nick's humanity and love for his wife is what keeps him interesting while he worries about the potential uses his knowledge could be put to, having seen what can happen when a party with particular ideas gains large amounts of power.

A combination spy thriller and exploration of a man coming to terms with his earlier life, Tool of the Trade is well worth a read.

Title: Tool of the Trade
Author: Joe Haldeman
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 0-7088-8278-1
Published Date: 1987
Pages: 261

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Review by Paul Silver, 2004