Holdcroft presents 20 bungled spy plots in high-mirth graphic format.
Spies have been botching their plots since they first started plotting, and Holdcroft has unearthed a number of documented snafus from ancient India, the Persian Empire and Old Cathay, as well as a number of more modern flubs. She has organized the book into five thematic chapters—bad luck, miscommunication, incompetence, overconfidence and betrayal—and most of the episodes lend themselves to her style. This is to paint the principals in both word and image (many of the spies appear to share a family resemblance to Boris and Natasha of the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon) as broadly humorous schemers and, ultimately, fumblers. But she also chocks the stories full of background information to put the spying act in context—the book is, to put it mildly, voluble—and she knows when to throttle back on the yuks when the bite of the act still carries a sting, these being the tragic bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior and the perfidies of Aldrich Ames. Still, there is plenty of room for comedy, from the industrial sabotage behind cochineal red to the bugging device surgically implanted in a cat (the cost of Project Acoustic Kitty to the American taxpayer: $15 million; the cat was run over by a taxi) to the botched recovery of a Soviet submarine (cost to American taxpayer: $500 million).
James Bond would cringe at these cleverly reconstructed espionage failures; kids will eat them up. (bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 10-14)