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The Spy Who Never Was

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Nora Baron is a mother, drama teacher, and part-time spy. She’s called in by a CIA honcho for a super secret mission, to pretend to be Chris Waverly, a legend out in the field. Except, according to him, there is no Chris Waverly; it’s an alias used by a few of the operatives. A blackmail letter has come in demanding money or else the truth about Chris Waverly will be revealed, which would expose the agents using the alias and get them killed. Nora flies to Paris pretending to be Chris Waverly to draw out the blackmailer. However, not everything is as it seems. Nora begins to wonder if she can trust her fellow agents and is stalked by assassins. Can she figure out the truth before somebody catches up with her?

This was an excellent spy thriller. I couldn’t put it down! Good pacing, good mystery (some twists I figured out, others were a surprise), and a gorgeous setting in France and Switzerland. At first, I was a little annoyed at how easily things went for Nora. She’s not really a trained agent yet magically has a knack for everything CIA; it felt almost Mary Sue-ish. However, I learned there was a reason that some things were going so perfectly, and I ended up really liking her, so it didn’t bother me anymore.

Another nice thing was it was clean! Minimal mild language, not a ton of violence, and what was there wasn’t super graphic. Some spy novels get pretty gritty and dirty, so it was refreshing.

This is the third book in the series, but I was easily able to read this as my first exposure to the series and understand the character. It could even be a standalone novel. I’m definitely interested in reading more, though! Thanks to NetGalley for the free ebook.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Alibi for this reader's copy. In exchange, I am providing an honest review.

Nora Barton, perhaps the most unassuming non-CIA agent there ever was, is called into a mission regarding a deep-cover spy. Chris Waverly, code name Rose, is retired but needed for one more mission. Waverly can't be located so Nora is sent in as Rose to flush out the people who are after Waverly. Arriving in Paris for the "quick and easy" mission, Nora quickly becomes uneasy. She tries shrugging it off as a facet of deep-cover she doesn't understand but the pieces just don't fit. There's a reason the saying, "Things aren't always as they seem" exists and soon Nora is pulled into a real-life version. She must extract herself and Chris Waverly/Rose before both of them get killed. 

Another engaging and enjoyable Nora Barton read from Savage. They are solid stories, if not a smidge unbelievable. To help me determine what could be a reality and what is imaginary about the spy life I have decided some non-fiction CIA reading is in order. Regardless of what the non-fiction will reveal I am 99.9% sure I will continue to read, and watch, spy thrillers. I just want to know how far they go in a fictional setting.
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Nora a drama teacher married to a CIA agent with an identity of a spy who never was - Chris Waverly. A government agency is being blackmailed to reveal her identity which them puts many others in danger.  

 Playing the part and observing others. I think that is what appealed to me on this read. Her observations and how she worked thru them to find the "real Chris Waverly". 

In Paris to suss out the blackmailers, she is being followed. Her contacts in Paris seem off and she is on high alert. She decides to take on the investigation her own and uncovers a vicious plot. 
More travelogue than spy story, its ok.
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"The Spy Who Never Was" is the 3rd book in Tom Savage's "Nora Baron" series.

Nora Baron is back! 
The wife of a CIA operative, this mother and drama teacher has proven to be an asset to the CIA in the past. Nora's next top-secret mission is to take on the role of Chris Waverly, a legend in the field. Waverly is an alias, a cover name shared by several agents throughout the world. 
A death threat is received against Chris Waverly and Nora must travel to Paris to trap the anonymous blackmailer. 
A wild and crazy ride ensues!
A page turning thriller that is very well written and extremely compelling. 
I look forward to the next "Nora Baron" novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing - Alibi for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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Alibi and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of The Spy Who Never Was.  I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

Nora Baron takes a top secret mission for the CIA, assuming the identity of a "legend" that is a cover name for several agents in the field.  As Chris Waverly, Nora is facing extreme danger.  Will she be able to help trap the blackmailer that is hell bent on exposing Chris Waverly or will the undue threat become fatal for Nora?

From drama professor to spy, Nora Baron should be an interesting character with an exciting and intriguing life.  I cannot quite put my finger on why I was not blown away by this book.  Perhaps, it is because I have read the Nora Baron novels that have come before and it feels like more of the same.  It has always bothered me that Nora was given a high ranking position in the CIA, simply because her husband has been an operative for years.  It just does not seem realistic that the Agency would work this way, especially because the criminal element would have leverage over the couple.  Being a professor of drama could give her some skills, but I found it unlikely that Nora would have picked up the necessary surveillance techniques that she has acquired in such a short time.   The book was fast paced, but just did not pack the punch that spy thrillers usually have.
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This was the first book I have picked up from Tom Savage. I was impressed with Nora Baron's character and her story. Being that this is #3 in the series I thought I would need to have read the previous installments but felt like it could easily stand alone. However, I am planning to pick up the other books in the series.

I was intrigued by the storyline and the idea of Chris Waverly, and the people who have used it as an alias in the intelligence community. Nora is called to play the part of The Spy Who Never Was, a cover identity that was retired, but now some hacker has discovered that identity was false and is extorting the CIA for millions as exposure would threaten operatives around the world. Nora heads to Paris to assume the identity with the goal of drawing out the hacker. Her trip to Paris is right out of the guidebooks, meals at the best restaurants and so on, all in hopes of drawing out the hacker. There are more parties interested in Waverly (Nora) than just the hacker, and they start to emerge from the shadows. This is when Nora realizes all is not as it appears and perhaps she has been drawn into a deeper, more dangerous game than they promised.

I would definitely recommend this for a summer read.
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My first of read of the Nora Baron Series and I was pleasantly surprised. A thriller that takes you to many different places and with interesting characters. I now dream of going to Switzerland because of the vivid description thru Nora's eyes.

Nora a drama teacher married to a CIA agent has been asked to take the identity of a spy who never was - Chris Waverly. A government agency is being blackmailed to reveal her identity thus putting many in danger. This is Nora's dream job. A job that puts her passion to work - acting. Playing the part and observing others. I think that is what appealed to me on this read. Her observations and how she worked thru them to find the "real Chris Waverly". 

Once she lands in Paris to smoke out the blackmailers, she observes a man following her. Her contacts in Paris seem off and she is on high alert. She contacts a family friend that is a Frenchman and wannabe American slanger. Enjoyable fella that one. 

As her time in Paris becomes intense, she decides to go rogue. It is using her observations and her talent to become someone else that she uncovers a deeper sinister plot. 

I do want to mention that this is a clean thriller which was another surprise.
 It is refreshing to see that you don't need to be vulgar to be engaging.

 A Special Thank You to Random House Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.
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I loved "The Spy who Never Was" its a cozy book. I couldn't put it down. It's definitely a book to be one of the best of 2018.
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Published by Random House/Alibi on January 9, 2018

Spy thrillers should be based on intrigue and suspense. They should never be dull. The Spy Who Never Was fails those tests. The novel might appeal to a fan of cozy mysteries, but I’ve never heard of a cozy spy novel. If you’re more interested in the heroine’s latest “sassy” hairstyle and footwear selection than international intrigue, this might be the right novel for you. Fans of traditional spy novels should avoid it.

The CIA has been spreading rumors that an agent named Chris Waverly has been conducting operations, thereby protecting the agents who actually conducted the operations. It’s doubtful that foreign agencies would fall for the ruse, but that’s the premise. It’s more believable than the rest of the story, which hinges on the delightful coincidence that the real Nora Baron looks just like the fictitious Chris Waverly.

Spy hobbyist Nora is told that blackmailers have tumbled to the fact that Waverly is fictitious and are threatening to reveal the truth, thus exposing real agents to harm, unless the CIA pays them. At the CIA’s direction, Nora takes a break from her busy life as the wife of a real spy, mother to a college student, and acting teacher to pretend to be Chris Waverly, thus flushing the blackmailers into the open.

It is clear to the reader that the CIA’s story isn’t making much sense, and that eventually becomes clear to Nora as well, although she’s a bit slow on the uptake. By the time she has finished her assigned mission, however, with more than half a novel to go and a trail of killed or missing agents, Nora realizes that she’s being played. She becomes convinced of that when the dreaded assassin The Falcon (because assassins always have cool names like The Falcon) visits her hotel room in the middle of the night. The story goes downhill from there.

Nora is the kind of spy who does her spying in tourist spots like Venice and London, making it easy for the author to provide local color. This time she goes to Paris, where the local color consists of popular restaurants and a river cruise along the Seine. Tom Savage offers an explanation for Nora’s tourism, but it seems contrived. The more likely explanation is that Savage has taken some European vacations to popular tourist destinations (including a river cruise along the Seine) and decided to turn them into material for spy novels. A description of Lucerne (another tourist destination) sounds like it came from a travel guide, although the bed-and-breakfast in which Nora stays (I’m not kidding) is described in loving detail.

Nora is also the kind of spy who beats up men twice her size who attack her, despite having no military training and minimal CIA training. But she has taken classes in jazz dance, which appears to be all the training anyone needs to defeat a stronger and more skillful fighter.

We’re told that the CIA is actively involved in breaking up Russian and African sex trafficking rings, which is not at all the CIA’s job and about which it could probably care less. Then we’re told that a spy has an important cellphone conversation at a bar with the bartender standing there, a remarkably sloppy performance by the spy but convenient for Nora when she chats up the bartender.

The characters in The Spy Who Never Was are all too cheery and freshly scrubbed (even the bad guys) to be convincing. They certainly aren’t interesting. The life story of the spy originally posing as Chris Waverly — avenging the assassinations of her assassin parents, falling in love with the Russian assassin who was tasked with killing her — borders on the preposterous. Her motivation for disappearing is equally implausible.

The big reveal (the true reason Nora was sent on her mission) is unoriginal and unbelievable. So we have dull characters and a farfetched plot, with occasional moments of underplayed violence that only add to the story’s overall dullness. It’s all very cozy, but if you’re looking for an actual spy novel, you’ll probably be disappointed.

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"The Spy Who Never Was" eBook was published in 2018 and was written by Tom Savage ( Mr. Savage has published ten novels, two under the pseudonym of T. J. Phillips.. This is the third novel in his "Nora Baron" series of spy thrillers. 

I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in contemporary Europe with the  primary character being Nora Baron. 

Baron is an accomplished actress currently teaching drama and acting at a New Your university. Her husband is a CIA agent, while now desk bound, he spent years as a field agent. Baron is recruited by a CIA executive to take part in a supposedly safe and easy operation in Europe.

She gets to Europe and finds that the story she has been told is far from the truth. Nor is the mission necessarily a safe and easy one. 

I enjoyed the 5+ hours I spent reading this thriller. This isn't a "edge-of-your-seat" thriller. There is some action, but most of the story is about Baron following a trail to find a spy in hiding. I do like the character of Nora Baron. While this is the third novel in the series, it does read well as a stand-alone novel. The cover art is OK. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.  

Further book reviews I have written can be accessed at 

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (
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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC of this book. 
A spy cozy! The perfect read after a couple of psychological thrillers that were really creepy. Enough action to hold one's interest. No graphic descriptions of the violence that did occur. So a cozy. This is the first book I have read by this author and I will go to him again if I want a pleasant, engaging read. The author did a great job with his woman characters. 3.5 stars.
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Another great adventure for Nora Baron!  She combines marriage, an active career as actor and acting teacher, and spy, juggling all the responsibilities and doing a great job on all of them. Secondary characters are interesting and well developed, locations are well described
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Thank you to NetGalley for an advance digital copy of this book in exchange for my review. Here is that review:

I really WANTED to like this book. And I almost did. It started out well, but there was both too much information and not enough. It was confusing, but not in a good mysterious way. I didn't particularly CARE for the leading character, nor any others.

Nora Barton is a retired actress and college drama teacher who husband works for the CIA and who sometimes does small "jobs" for the agency. Does that even make sense? Anyway, she is asked to travel to Paris to pretend to be a spy who doesn't really exist, but who several other agents have used for their undercover work. She is given very little information, only a contact in Paris. From there on, it really gets complicated. It seems Nora has old friends in Paris, unknown to the CIA, and she contacts them because she can't quite work out what she has gotten herself into. Good thing, because soon these friends are rescuing her and helping in all sorts of ways. 

The book goes on too long, is not believable, and I just didn't like it. I probably would not have finished if it had not been a NetGalley book.
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I received an ARC of this novel in exchane for an honest review via NetGalley. This is a highly entertaining thriller and i could not put it down. The images described in the scenery transported me to these p!acex and made me want to be there! Stayed up late reading and was not disappointed!
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The Spy Who Never Was is an espionage thriller with an appealing and unusual spy protagonist. Nora Baron is not an official spy, but she is married to one. Her husband Jeff is a former field agent who is now a supervisor with a desk job. She is a drama teacher whose reached the big five-oh, and an occasional consulting gig with the CIA though she is untrained in the kind of skills one would expect her to have, like what to do when someone is going to kill you.

Did you know acting equips you with many of the skills that make a great spy? Figuring out a character’s motive to play their part prepares you to figure out what some bad guy may be up to. Also, lists are good.

Nora is called to play the part of The Spy Who Never Was, a cover identity that was retired, but now some hacker has discovered that identity was false and is extorting the CIA for millions as exposure would threaten operatives around the world. Nora will go to Paris and pretend to be that spy in hopes of drawing out the hacker. Her trip to Paris is right out of the guidebooks, meals at the best restaurants and so on, all in hopes of drawing out the hacker. Well, more than a hacker is drawn from the woodwork and suddenly Nora realizes all is not as it appears and perhaps she has been drawn into a deeper, more dangerous game than they promised.

I think Nora Baron is appealing. I love that her name is a palindrome and her husband calls her Pal. I appreciate that the story is fair. Nora does not hide information from the reader, we know what she knows when she knows it. I think the actual plot is intriguing and complex enough to hold my interest, though it seems to me that Cole and Amanda’s scheme to capture the “hacker” could have been frustrated by a simple phone call.

In the end, though, I thought this book failed readers. It is very flat and reminds me of an old Silhouette Intrigue except, of course, they would never have a fifty-year-old main character. The sense of place felt mediated by a guidebook rather than experience. I’m not suggesting the author never went to those places, though it’s possible, but that the author’s experience of those places was driven by tours and guidebooks, by research rather than experience.

I also struggled to suspend disbelief that the CIA would be sending an actress/drama teacher rather than a field agent. There’s a late night encounter in her Paris hotel that is just too, too improbable for words. I also think that love may conquer a lot, but it doesn’t conquer the kind of sociopathy that is necessary to be a contract killer and when a contract killer who has murdered across the globe gets caught, would they ever be released, no matter how much they have been transformed by love? I just don’t see the French security service, no matter how much France is for lovers, deciding that love erases a pile of bodies across the world.

The Spy Who Never Was is entertaining. I like Nora, but there is no real suspense. She is far too nice to fail. I never felt she was in real jeopardy. There’s no such genre as cozy espionage, but that’s how this book feels, like a cozy spy thriller.

I received a copy of The Spy Who Never Was from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Spy Who Never Was at Penguin Random House | Alibi
Tom Savage author site
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The Spy Who Never Was

by Tom Savage

The Spy Who Never Was poses a mystery within a thriller as Nora Baron, drama teacher and part time CIA operative, is recruited to play the role of a spy who has disappeared, but never actually existed—according to Cole, head of the investigation. The mission is never quite clear to Nora, even as it suddenly reaches its conclusion and she is congratulated and sent back home. At this point the thriller is far from over for any of its characters.

Nora finds herself in the ultimate danger and discovers she is both naive and talented. She is aided by friends from previous missions along with new friends she learns to trust along the way. With interesting characters, settings in Paris and Switzerland, a complex plot, and some believable action, this is a book you will not want to put down.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and Thriller

Notes: #3 in the Nora Baron series; works well as a standalone

Publication:   January 9, 2018—Alibi (Random House)

Memorable Lines: 

Professional agents knew their jobs, and they thought that no one outside their charmed circle possessed the imagination to do what they did. Now Nora could use their arrogant blind spot to her advantage.

Nora was working for phantoms, agents who were every bit as insubstantial as the paper woman they represented: the spies who never were.

…the words she shouted weren’t in the débutante handbook.
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When I saw this title for request, I was immediately intrigued. When I saw it was #3 in a series, I was slightly less so - I'm a bit backlogged on reviews, and I don't like reading series books out of order, so I was daunted a bit at the thought of trying to get through two books before I could even get into this one. I am SO glad I didn't let any of that stop me - this series is one of my favorite finds on NetGalley, and I have absolutely loved each and every book!

In this, the third installment, erstwhile CIA operative Nora Baron has found herself in the midst of her most bizarre "case" of all - she's asked to impersonate a spy who doesn't actually exist. Or does she? And who's asking her to do the impersonation? And why? As with all the books in this delightfully crafted series, the secrets and misdirections are thick on the ground, and Nora somehow manages to navigate them all with aplomb, verve, and more than a little lucky intuition. I wonder if the CIA really *does* choose actors to work in their ranks when they need to go off the grid - it certainly makes sense, given the overlap between the skill sets actors must by necessity have mastered and those needed by successful operatives. This sense burns brightly in this series, making Nora's actions and their outcomes seem much more plausible than they would otherwise for an untried, untested individual thrown into situations that usually have already outwitted career spies. Somehow, Savage manages to keep it all just this side of believable, and that ability, coupled with his innate sense for original and timely plot lines and masterful characterization, makes this a fantastic series for anyone interested in mysteries, spies, and secrets...  

I cannot wait to see what Nora stumbles up against in the next installment!
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Princess Fuzzypants here:
If you are like Momma and I and truly enjoy a good taut spy thriller with an intelligent and highly capable heroine, you will love Nora Baron.  We have followed her adventures since she first was entangled in a deadly race to save her husband.  She learned in that book that he was a CIA operative.  She also learned she was a natural herself so when a hotshot CIA boss offers her a top secret job to lure a bad guy out into the open in Paris, she agrees.  She is playing a mythical agent: a trap he cannot resist.
Unfortunately, it is not long before she discovers that the good guys are the bad guys and the bad guys are the good guys but not before she has assisted her “boss”.  They are looking for the legendary female agent who actually exists but  “retired” several years ago and went into hiding.  
The hallmark of these stories is nail biting suspense and action without being over the top.  Nora never becomes super-agent.  She is just an actress who is very good at role playing and ad lib.  This is no exception.  Lots of twists, turn and mystery.
I give it five purrs and two paws up.
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The Spy Who Never Was is the third installment in the fast paced Nora Baron Thriller Series.  Nora is an unintentional CIA operative first seen as she went undercover to save her husband, field agent Jeffrey Baron.  Her natural skills and abilities called her back in to action in the second book, The Woman Who Knew Too Much. And now she is contacted once again by a high ranking suit from Langley, Edwin Cole, who has offered the drama teacher and actress the role of a lifetime, playing the role of an elusive super spy/assassin who never was but was a cover used by several operatives.

This assignment takes Nora to Paris where she meets with Amanda Morris who is running the operation.  Before she travels to Paris, Nora contacts Jacques Lanier, retired from the French secret service and Nora's life saver in her first mission.  She doesn't know the CIA group, but she will always trust Jacques with her life.

Upon arrival in Paris, Nora finds herself followed by more than a few, including Jacques' people, as well as threatened by some.  She plays her role to a T and is told that she has helped to capture the outside threat, but something doesn't set well with her.  The begging words of the assassin who threatens her on her last night in Paris sends Nora in a completely different direction.  A direction that will rid the Company of a rogue agent and his minions, but put Nora and the spy that wasn't in dangerous circumstances on a dark and stormy night in the Swiss Alps.

This action packed story kept me up until the wee hours. I couldn't wait to finish yet dreaded the end.  I certainly do recommend this story.
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I honestly don't know why I requested this ARC from Netgalley given that I had read the two previous books and found both completely implausible.  This is not repeat not how CIA works folks.  Tops on the list is the idea that a "civilian" would be pressed into service on this sort of mission (the mission itself is again, implausible.). The characterization of CIA seniors is outdated but not as offensive as the ridiculous tradecraft.  Why go to the trouble of providing Nora with documentation that she's a nurse and then have a station officer pick her up at the airport.  Or meet her for lunch.  And so on.  I DNF.  That said, this will no doubt entertain others.
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