Spies and Lies

Spy thrillers can be compelling, but the closer they are to real life the muddier they get. Good people do bad things for good reasons. Good people do bad things for bad reasons. Good people turn out to be bad people when they do too many bad things for good and bad reasons…

“A Most Wanted Man” — the John le Carré novel and film, starring the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman — and the Worricker series (Masterpiece on PBS) gave me a case of moral ambiguity whiplash. In all sorts of popular fiction people in the right side of important issues use everything from simple deception to horrific torture to further positive ends.

When the premise is exciting and the characters are multi-dimensional and credible, a good storyteller takes the reader (or viewer) along for the tumultuous ride. Still, sometimes I get a squishy feeling about ambiguous answers to the classic question about the means to an end.

What do you think?

Do you enjoy spies and their lies in fiction?