When I was nine or ten years old, I loved a series of books for kids about a spy called Michel. Everything about the books was fascinating: his training, the secret mission, his amazing self-control — all that was missing was a woman spy. The Company We Keep supplies it. The first half is the story of the couple’s adventures as CIA spies in central Europe and Asia, which are a mix of the tedious (lengthy sojourns in parked cars, hoping to get a glimpse of suspects), the mundane (getting dental care in Dushanbe, via Moscow) and the terrifying (getting shot at in Sarajevo). It’s all good fun on the surface, but we can see that assignments make little sense for the operatives themselves, that they often cultivate friendships for ulterior purposes, and that their double or triple identities lead to serious problems in their personal lives.
The second half of the book occurs after they leave the CIA and it’s boring and often distasteful. Boring because spies are just people so they renovate bathrooms and deal with aging parents just like we do. Distasteful when the methods of spying, when carried over into regular life, show their real colors of systematically getting around the rules.