Harry Potter and the Art of Spying by Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest, 2014

As a Snape fan, I found this book delightful from beginning to end. At last, authors who give the Snape character the full credit he is due for pulling off a nearly impossible career as a double agent with the highest of stakes. Of the many things I enjoyed about this book, one was the feeling that even spies, or experts on espionage writing, like to see themselves validated and represented in literature. Undercover work is thankless by nature and yet so difficult and highly specialized. Some of the real-life spy stories interspersed in this book are jaw-dropping in their tension.

Snape is certainly an odd duck. Not everyone can go through life with one true love/greatest regret, a miserable temperament, and an unrelenting workload… but then, not everyone can handle the life of a spy, either. We don’t know their names and never will, but I am sure that there are real-life spies to whom we all owe more than we can ever know. Hurray for fiction’s ability to give this double agent the satisfaction of a “Look…at…me” moment with his dying breath.

If Snape is too ill-tempered for your taste, you can also enjoy these authors’ admiration for Hermione. Quite a few readers find Hermione to be too much for them, from her hex on the D.A. contract to her extortion of Rita Skeeter. These spycraft writers, though, know to celebrate Hermione’s decisiveness in high-stakes fights.

The writing in the book seems geared for a middle-grade or YA audience. As some readers have noted, exclamation marks abound, and so do dad jokes. I thought I might find this annoying, but to my surprise, I was oddly charmed, perhaps because the personal nature of these voices gave so much warmth and context to the hair-raising espionage stories throughout.

This book is a strange but effective combination of espionage discussion and a luxuriously close, respectful reading of Order of the Phoenix from a spycraft point of view. Fun, fun, fun.

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