I picked up the first book in this series by Beth McMullen last year (Original Sin) and had been waiting for the second book, Spy Mom: The Adventures of Sally Sin (you can now buy them together as a two-book set as well). It was out in time to take on vacation, which was just perfect. These books are a fun combo of mom lit and spy lit. Sally Sin is a Bay Area semi-sarcastic stay-at-home mom with a toddler (who becomes a preschooler in the second book) and a husband. She also has a past as spy. Which she has never quite mentioned to her husband. She left her past behind her to have a normal life, but things from her past keep sneaking into her present, requiring her to find people or things so that the world can be saved. The book is liberally sprinkled with flashbacks to her spy days when the real action happened, and these sections are fast and fun. The past is always intertwined in her present somehow, so the flashbacks help you understand the story.
Sally never takes her herself very seriously and is very open about her flaws as a spy (there’s one character who constantly kidnapped her, over and over, when she was in the field, and there’s some sexual tension there as well). She’s also slightly flippant about the agency she worked for her and former boss. What she’s not flippant about is how much she loves her son, even if one day he hates cheese sticks and the next day treats her like a lunatic for thinking he hates cheese sticks.
What I love about these books is that Sally really is a regular mom, with stained mom jeans, sippy cups, healthy snacks, a dirty house, Legos, and worries about her child’s safety – and a sense of humor about her entire situation. The books take those very realistic mom worries and mix them with international intrigue. Sally, like many moms, has to try to balance her home life and her professional life, but her situations are just slightly more dangerous than those most moms face. Her thoughts and her routine feel so supremely real that you almost think you could lead a double life as well as she does.
On top of the intrigue, the books are also slowly exploring Sally’s childhood. Her parents were killed or left her when she was very young and she is only beginning to remember who they were, what happened, and how it might be connected to her life as a spy and to international issues. I’m looking forward to seeing this thread unravel even more in future books.
If you’ve read and liked any of the Ayelet Waldman’s Mommy Track Mysteries, this book will feel like a perfect fit to you. McMullen has a created a really wonderful blend of international intrigue and mommy tribulations that is funny and compelling at the same time. I’m now going to be impatiently waiting for the third book in the series!