The Spy Who Was Left Behind by Michael Pullara

‘It was very difficult for the Americans to tell the good guys from the bad guys.’

Would the United States allow a man to take the fall for a CIA agent’s murder? Would the government be complicit in the cover-up? These are the overreaching questions directing Michael Pullara’s book The Spy Who Was Left Behind. In 1993, Freddie Woodruff was shot and killed while riding in a car on pleasure trip on the outskirts of Iblisi, Georgia.  A local man was quickly arrested and confessed to angrily shooting at the car after it swerved towards him on the deserted road. In a shoddy case, he was tried and convicted, yet accused the state of coercion on the last day of the trial.  Even more puzzling was the arrest of a CIA double agent soon thereafter, who was linked to a heroin chain weaving its way through Georgia to Russia. How are all this things connected? And how far does it reach?

Pullara, who was a childhood acquaintance of Woodruff, hears about the case, and starts to gain interest. After doing some initial research, he meets with Woodruff’s sister and decides to take up the cause. He proceeds to comb through heavily-censored released documents from the first investigation and trial. He travels to Tbilisi to meet with witnesses, and see the scene of the crime.  Through the course of the telling of his investigation, Pullara gives background of Woodruff’s childhood and career. He touches on the history of Georgia’s history with Russia: the oil wealth, the drugs, the emergance of democracy, the mafioso…

Obviously, this is a very interesting case, especially in terms of current issues in that area and around the word, and Pullara did a great service to Anzor Sharmaidze who was originally jailed for the crime. My issues with the book have to do with the writing. The history portions of the book can be dense, which is completely different from the tone of the other parts of the work. And many of the sections detailing the evidence of the case are rehashed over and over as Pullara presents it to each bureaucrat or judge. And unfortunately, at times his voice had a tinge of arrogance to it in regards to his knowledge of procedure and law. It was tough to read that editorializing.

A case filled with lost and/or misleading witnesses, shoddy CSI, and political slants. The Spy Who Was Left Behind explores a fascinating case but may have needed an edit or two.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Releases on November 13th.

Thank you to NetGalley, Scribner, and Michael Pullara for the advanced copy for review.


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