I really despised this story But I ll be lenient 1 of 10 stars This book is one of those that you wish could be made into a good movie Oh wait a second have you see a new TV series The Americans I bet the idea for The Americans came from The Charm School You know the idea of Russian spies infiltrating the US, pretending to be Americans Scared already By the way, The Americans is one clever TV show that is such a rarity in our modern TV world.If you like spy novels, you might love The Charm School I am not a big fan of anything spies related Unless it is Daniel Craig as James Bond Unless it is a clever TV show Unless it is a well written book.The Charm School is just that a very well written spy novel We have a hero We have a cold blooded son of a bitch anti hero We have brutal Russian KGB agents We have a smart ass American spy We have a psychotic Russian spy We have a love triangle We have car chases, torture chambers, spy equipment, and Russian essential elements such as vodka and borsch We have it all in this book.It was not a wild ride as you might think, but it was an intense one The ending was not as impressive as the book itself It seemed rushed It seemed that DeMille got tired with his own story and decided to wrap it up on a whim It did take a little bit away from the book but not much.One final thought curiosity is a root of all espionage If you are curious, go ahead and read The Charm School You won t regret it. Pdf ☣ The Charm School ♍ Deep In The Heart Of Russia, A Group Of Casually Dressed Young Men Are Learning A Different Kind Of Lesson The Undergraduates Sprawled Around A Game Board Aren T Chilling Out On Campus The Young KGB Agents Attending The Charm School Are Brushing Up On Their AmericanWhen A Young Tourist Goes To The Aid Of A Stranger On A Dark Russian Road, He Is Astonished To Find A Fellow American On The Run The Man Has Been Missing For Over A Decade, Plucked From The Jungles Of Vietnam To Become An Unwilling Tutor At The Institution Now His Former Students Are Poised To Strike At The Heart Of America A spy mystery from Demille, when Demille was a younger writer still developing his sarcastic wit Even then, he could make a seemingly improbable story believable and highly entertaining For anyone over 40 who remembers the tail end of the long and mistrust filled Cold War, this book will resonate.As usual, DeMille weaves an imaginative story involving characters you love, spies in the late 1980 s, the American Embassy in Moscow, a bit of Russian history, Vietnam MIAs, a training school for Soviet Spies and a rescue mission that will have you on the edge of your seat The Charm School is riveting and one his best finishes, reminiscent of Night Fall and Plum Island Could the Charm School have ever existed 2.5 but deserves to be rounded down to 2 rather than up to 3 my first DeMille book and convinced me to NEVER read him again.This is a harsh rating for a relatively well written book for pulp, the use of language and research doesn t get much better than this However, the author and his self importance and conceit , the characters, the characterization of the USSR, the work s long winded ness, and its portrayal of relationships annoyed me so much as to push my rating over the edge 1 It really took a lot of effort for me to give this book a shot after reading the second paragraph of the author s intro The Cold War is over, so is The Charm School still relevant The Iliad is still read almost 3000 years after it first appeared UM Get a grip Mr DeMille, you are no Homer, and even if you were, it would not be for you to characterize yourself as such 2 The characters are TRULY detestable, each and every single one of them although clearly DeMille is trying to portray Americans as somehow superior to the Russians, everyone from Hollis to Lisa to Alevy to every American in between comes off as naive, idiotic, self aggrandizing, or worse Example 1 in the middle of a time sensitive critical operation in which Alevy is saving Lisa and Hollis from a KGB camp, Lisa stops to ask Alevy in a whiny typically sexist portrayal, do you know what the Russians did to me in this camp Well, honey, I bet he does have some ideas, and even if he does not, is this really the time to begin this or ANY discussion Example 2 Hollis first wants to rescue some American POWs gone missing for decades, then when he meets them in person he is contemptible, cruel, and cold towards them for being traitors while doing exactly what the POWs are doing ie being a traitor himself , and finally he returns to detesting his government and wanting to hold them accountable for not dealing with these traitors in a way he condones 3 The characterization of the USSR really got to me I grew up in communist Romania, and my family suffered a great deal as a consequence we are political refugees in the USA, long story There s a lot of similarities between the Romanian and USSR regimes, and DeMille does a good job portraying all Russians as either cruel animals, pathetic impotents, sellouts, or any other number of unflattering characterizations There is not ONE positive portrayal of a Russian if there are any in the book who are not evil by DeMille s standards, then they are just pathetic excuses for human beings who are too stupid naive unable to help themselves even Zurikov, the defector, is portrayed as such even though Hollis comes to the conclusion at some point that he just wants to be free, whatever that freedom means to him A lot of people in the USSR eastern block suffered a GREAT DEAL at communist hands I would argue, a majority , and yes, there was very little that could be done unfortunately until conditions changed in the late 80s people resisted in their own ways poetry, humor, underground art and radio, black market economies Just because they were not able to take concrete action by democratic standards and overthrow totalitarianism sooner does not make all eastern europeans naive, impotent, cruel, or idiotic 4 The book just goes on and on and on and on even though very little actually happens I guess part of it is to build atmosphere but it s TOO much 5 The relationships are totally, entirely unbelievable, starting with the romance between Lisa and Hollis 20 years apart , which is completely unexplainable and unrealistic I NEVER got why they loved each other, the attraction was incredibly superficial, etc Same with most other relationships in the book.That said, it WAS a good mystery that was written fairly well IF it had been condensed into about half the space and IF it had left out some of the snark, bad attempt at creating relationships, and anti people who are oppressed propaganda, I probably would have rated this a 4 As it stood, however, it s a 2, and it also has helped me form my opinion of DeMille as an author I will NOT try again. Were any of you even born in 1988 Somebody asked me about smart, fun, beach books this week, and this is one of my all time favorites The Charm School is an old school ha spy thriller I first read in 1990 and which zombied me into a rabid lifelong fan of all the thrillers that master Nelson DeMille cranks out, always full of non fictional detail that makes the novels seem very realistic Before 9 11, he wrote a book where a jet liner with a terrorist in control ominously heads towards JFK airport with the tower receiving no responses from the pilot His stories about Middle Eastern conflict are frighteningly on target, with gas attacks at archeological sites that seemed ripped from the headlines except that his books have come out before these bizarre incidences have occurred Hubby Joe and I have had than one conversation about who exactly it is that is reading his books We own a hardback of every novel he has written but promise y all we are not terrorists So, The Charm School Incredible Back in the days of the Vietnam war, there were than 2,400 US fighting men who went missing When I was little, I remember that people wore these metal MIA missing in action bracelets that would each honor a service member who had not come home but whose body had not been found One doesn t hear much about that these days, but these guys that vanished like ghosts but who might just be alive in some POW camp or hiding out in the jungle weighed heavily on the minds of our citizens The torture for their families and friends was in the not knowing.These are the men who populate The Charm School.In the war, North Vietnam was a communist country with the USSR supporting it, and the Soviet Union is precisely where this story is set It starts out with a crazy and outlandish claim There is a young American guy who s just finished grad school and is driving across Russia newly but just barely open to outsiders in celebration just prior to starting his career The kid is pretty cocky and has shipped over his hot rod of a car to tour the continent As he is toodling along a back road in the high forest, an older guy scrambles out of the woods and flags him down.The surprised college grad is told that this man is a US pilot who s been held captive for years in some sort of camp, right there in Russia The guy says he was shot down in Vietnam and maintains that other US veterans are still at the camp, being forced to work as instructors to young KGB agents The job of the captives is to Americanize the KGB so that they can move to the US, pose as regular citizens, and spy on the country.The stunned kid manages to get garbled word to the US Embassy about this claim but then is suddenly clammed up The man out to investigate his story is the US air attache, but as we all know, many of those in the embassy are actually intelligence officers Hollis is his name, and he is intent on finding this KGB charm school if it is not merely the ramblings of a single deranged man and on finally bringing our MIA home.If you are a fan of the FX series called The Americans or loved the movie The Manchurian Candidate, you are gonna seriously LOVE The Charm School What is further interesting is that since this book was written 30 years ago, the attitude the reader might pick up from the author is vintage cold war reading this book is like cracking open a time capsule You may not care for the opinions of the protagonist or like his interaction with his love interest, but the whole thing s an honest snapshot of the time period Such a bonus 5 stars and on my favorite fluff shelf. I cannot begin to guess how many times I have read this book a conservative guess would be a dozen This is one of the very few books that I could reread immediately upon finishing This is a book about the cold war, set in Moscow and featuring a plot twist so amazing that in its setting it would have been horrifying In 2017 you will recognize it to some degree as the the plot of the show The Americans The story begins with a young American who has decided to spend his post MBA vacation driving through Europe in a Pontiac Trans Am He decides to drive through Russia and ends up at Bordino where he stumbles upon something that will get him killed In this version of the book the author expands upon this scene, he admits in the prologue that his editor cut this from the original, I agree with the editor It makes things clear for the dullest of his readers but in the earlier version I enjoyed the slow reveal of the plot twist When Gregory Fisher disappears from Moscow the US embassy, most importantly the Air Force attache, Sam Hollis, gets involved Joined by another embassy employee, and Russophile, he sets out to collect Mr Fishers remains but also makes a side trip to Bordino which has the KGB steaming What makes this book frightening is that there was a society, a country, where you could disappear and no one would raise an eyebrow This is a Nelson DeMille book that I have wanted a sequel, a prequel, just MORE since the first time I read it. This is one doozy of a spy novel Especially for those of us who grew up during the Cold War and remember how mistrustful we were of the Russkies I read this in print many years ago and just recently listened to the audio version I ve read several of this author s novels in the John Corey series, but this stand alone trumps them all I believe it was his first novel , and I think it s his best Sam Hollis and Lisa Rhodes work at the American embassy in Moscow They stumble upon information about a secret school in Russia where Americans are held against their will and have to teach Russians how to pass as Americans They study language and slang and history and culture, and then are sent to the U.S where they live as Americans and are gradually infiltrating all levels of society.As always, DeMille can be a little long winded, but he clearly did his research about Russia Much of it is quite interesting, and rather prescient considering this was published before the Berlin Wall came down I found the ending satisfying than some of DeMille s other novels.
Ten reasons why this book is garbage 01 The entire unfortunate meeting between Greg and Dodson suspends belief These two characters add nothing to the plot except contributing to its convolution.02 We know why Sam is in love with the heroine but the reciprocation of that is not explained.03 The reasons given for endangering Lisa in a spy mission is ludicrous, and may be the biggest gaffe of all.04 Lisa s interest in the peasants of Yablonka is forced and nobody sane would buy it It s just a reason for Sam and Lisa to have sex.05 The author doesn t know when to stop writing, and he forgoes better occasions to stop and instead finishes lamely.06 I m still ruing not abandoning reading this garbage, and I m aware I m wasting time on this book and this review.07 This book displeases me so much that it has derailed my gusto for thrillers.08 Seth s death was idiotic and it was unclear how he could have avoided 600 KGB guards.09 The reasons given for the slight slap on the wrist for Lisa and Sam don t hold up They should have been in the KGB not The Charm School That s because they know the language.10 The spies at the embassy, both Russian undercover and people like Seth take too many risks for no gain.11 Sukirov s effect on Sam is not furthered It s a loose end, and Sukirov s valuable info s provenance is not explained.12 Sam experiences religious feelings in a disguised ceremony in Moscow I don t buy that scene.13 Lisa seems to be as atheistic as Sam That does not compute.14 The humor of Demille is in its infancy here This book tries to be funny And fails.15 The laughable attempt at creating tension over fuel shortage still grates.That s just off the top of my head I will give Night Fall a try If it s cut from the same cloth as This Book, then all the bets are off For some reason I imagined Sean Astin in the role of Sam He s about the right age and build For Lisa I imagined a pretty ex colleague from work In my mind they had great chemistry I was putty in the hands of this book And still it failed on so many fronts that I m thinking about never again reading a Cold War thriller How could John Le Carre earn his living baffles me.PT Barnum must be spinning in his grave I must know when to quit I lost against this book because I thought the last chapters would redeem the book Dream on There was no real twist in this story, there was no sacrifice, there was no revenge, there was no traitor Allegorically let me say that this book missed the boat You ll understand if you read The Charm School. When a young American touristGregory Fisherpicks up a U.S POW on the run while touring Russia,in his Pontiac Grand Amthe excitement begins and doesn t stop.This intense and fast moving spy thriller brings the evil of the Soviet Union to life during the Cold War with well defined characters, loads of KGB treachery and a horror of a secret deep in the woods.Perhaps a little wordy at times, and I did not care much for the female protagonist, but the brave Colonel Hollis and his sarcastic wit than made up for her weaknesses in spades Unputdownable..despite the near 800 pages and one of my favorites by DeMille 4.5 Stars. Update March 24, 2015 Oops Forgot to mention.Erik Larson even makes an appearance