A Feminist Biothriller: Reviewing H.N. Wake’s “Deceits of Borneo.”

I recently had the pleasure to read H.N. Wake’s second installment in the Mac Ambrose series.  While I hadn’t had the opportunity to read the first book, I know I’ll be on the lookout for all other tales of Mac, the complex, human, realistic spy I’ve come to love.  Here’s my review of Deceits of Borneo.  You can find it on Amazon, here.


I am not normally a fan of spy thrillers. Having said that, this was a wonderful way to spend several days. The pace of the story was constant, with no tangents or confusing passages to detract from the momentum of the plot. Wake has crafted believable characters to which I can relate on a human level, and I’m inclined to seek out other adventures of Mac Ambrose in the future.

There are two features of this particular book that made it engaging for me. First, it’s set in the context of a much larger consideration–the corruption of politics by business and corporate involvement in rapacious destruction of delicate ecosystems. These themes are then nested within the considerations of international politics and the covert race to ensure a tenuous supremacy over the governments of other countries. I found Wake’s use of these broader themes fascinating, and felt that she handled them with intelligence and aplomb.

The second feature of the narrative that kept me reading late into the night is her explication of feminist ideologies in a believable context. The deeply ingrained misogyny that permeates many fields of business, politics, and even espionage is laid bare on the page. The characters struggle against, consciously manipulate, or unconsciously enact this embedded misogyny in wholly believable ways. The fact that the main character, Mac, is also a female deep cover agent made this book appealing. I have, in the past, shied away from the genre of spy thrillers because I grew weary of the repetitive James Bond tropes, in which all women were foils for the main character–generally a man.

Women are, in many instances, branded as villains if they exercise agency or possess intelligence that is not bent to serve the aims of men. In Wake’s novel, the characters are all complex–neither wholly bad nor wholly good. They grapple with the conundrums of conscience, become enmeshed in patterns far larger than they perceive, and are realistic in their humanity. What a wonderful, satisfying read this was. I’m so pleased I was given the chance to discover H.N. Wake and her novel’s engaging cast of characters.


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