2 out of 4 stars
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The Adults in the Room by Jeffrey D. Mechling tells the story of Tim Hall, a former CIA agent with an unfortunate history. A car crash that killed his wife also left him with amnesia and took his job. Now retired, he hangs out at a local bar, befriending the bartenders and being made fun of by the other regulars. They call him "Spy Guy" and laugh at his failure to prove his former CIA employment. Tim's frustration soon directs him down a path of last resort. Curious about the effectiveness of stem-cell treatments, he researches online to find out if such therapies could help improve his memory. Since stem cell procedures related to the brain are experimental and unavailable in the United States, Tim connects with a clinic in the Dominican Republic and travels there for treatments. The people and situations there seem odd, making him feel powerless in the process he is undergoing. Even though he is apprehensive, however, the procedure goes forward. When Tim returns to the States, unexpected reactions cause him to wonder what actually happened to him at the clinic. Was he truly treated with stem cells? Why is his body responding the way it is? What happened to place him in a mental health ward?
The plot is relatively engaging, containing CIA intrigue, mystery, and secrets uncovered. However, this book is not a page-turner. Although most of the plot did keep me guessing, there were not many other aspects that fleshed out what could be a satisfying read. For instance, strong characterization is lacking. I found Tim's character to be a bit flat for a principal character. His actions and thoughts, especially regarding love interests, are shallow at best. Additionally, both of the leading female characters are presumably designed to keep the reader guessing about their motives. That part was successful. However, there was not much more to them.
Also irritating was that parts of the text seemed unnecessary. For example, the description of one of the character's cars sounded like a commercial. I kept waiting for the scene in which the features discussed would come into play. Would it be in a car chase? Or maybe a secret escape? Unfortunately, that scene never happened, although the author took a lot of time to describe the lane assist and parallel self-parking features.
Woven into the plot are failures of actual CIA agents, the media's coverage of political candidates, and descriptions of existing businesses and highways. This was effectively done and brought some reality and legitimacy into the book. If I could rate the plot on its own -- just the outline of it all -- I would give it a 3 out of 4. However, some of the aspects of the plot could have been more completely fleshed out. Some of the plot points seemed hurried, and others just seemed misplaced.
This is the second edition of this book. While I haven't read the first edition, I will say that this one proved to include only a few errors. I did have to remove a star because there were more than ten errors, but the book is not peppered with mistakes. Those still in the book had to do with punctuation and simple formatting oversights.
Because this book needs more editing and characterization, I am giving it 2 out of 4 stars. Readers looking for an average spy novel would enjoy this book. However, readers expecting round characters in a CIA thriller will need to look elsewhere. Prospective readers should also know there is a good deal of profanity, sex, and violence in this short book.
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