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United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6) by Ally Carter
I just opened the box that contains my copy of "United We Spy." I'm nervous. When we left Cammie and her friends, they had decided that they needed to find Preston Winters and save him before he can be convinced to join the Circle of Cavan like his father did before him. But what if Preston's already a member of the Circle? It has been a while, after all, since he saved her in Italy, and his father may already have persuaded him that the Circle's objectives should be his own.
"United We Spy" opens on the day of New Year's Eve at Cambridge University. Cammie is ostensibly visiting as a prospective student, but she is actually there because Catherine Goode, Zach's mother, is assassinating the Inner Circle of the Circle of Cavan and they have tracked former Prime Minister Sir Walter Knight, one of the Inner Circle, to an office on campus.
Unfortunately they are just a little too late. While Cammie and Bex are attempting to convince Knight that he needs to go into protective custody, lest the same fate befalls him as has befallen other members of the Inner Circle, a sniper's bullet kills him.
Rachel tells Cammie and the girls in no uncertain terms that they should not attempt to rescue Preston, since Preston is safe within the walls of the Embassy and has bodyguards when he leaves. However, once Macey tells her friends that she is going with or without them, they head off to Rome (by way of Marseilles, since they are taking Macey's mom's private jet and don't dare leave a record of their actual destination).
They make contact with Preston (read "make contact with" as "lure into boys' bathroom and then leap out the window with"), but they end up not getting away. Preston counts on Cammie being disoriented in the streets of Rome and leads her back to the Embassy. He insists that he will be safe at the embassy. However, rather than being safe at the embassy, Preston and his father end up getting arrested at the embassy.
We find out that Max Edwards, the Interpol agent at career day in "I'd Tell You that I Love You but Then I'd Have to Kill You" is in charge of the prison where the Winterses are being held. Edwards arrives at the school telling Rachel and Cammie that "Mr. Winters" will only speak to Cammie. Cammie goes to visit the prison and is surprised by two things: 1. that the prison is a prison (despite clearly hearing that the Winters men were placed under arrest) and 2. that the "Mr. Winters" who wanted to speak to her wasn't Preston, but was Samuel.
This seemed, to me, to be a pretty big character failure on the part of Cammie. I would expect Cammie to put together that people who have been arrested would be kept in a prison. Additionally, why would they transport her an undisclosed number of miles (we later find out that the prison is in northern Alaska, a distance of at least 3,000 miles) to talk to a high school student who was being difficult? I would think that transporting a spy-in-training that far would mean that they needed her to get information from a more important target than that. These two misunderstandings weren't important in the scheme of things, but I found them to be frustrating nevertheless.
Cammie's conversation with Winters is the springboard which starts the girls on the way to their solution.
While the girls stay in the United States for the rest of the book after Cammie's visit to Winters, much of what follows centers on the fictional nation of Caspia. Caspia somehow manages to be on the border between Iran and Turkey and also to be the only route left to Iran for shipping their oil overseas once Iran's access to the Caspian Sea is cut off. Since real-life Iran is on the Persian Gulf, it seems that Caspia would have to somehow stretch along the west and south borders of Iran, blocking Iran's access to the Gulf. Once again, as with so many other books, I have to say "I need a map!"
If you can ignore the issues about the geography of the Middle East, the rest of the book is a nonstop crosscountry adventure in the United States, from Alaska to Virginia to what is likely to be Nebraska (since it is a hunting shack owned by a friend of Cammie's grandparents) to New York City and back to Gallagher Academy.
By the end of the book, Cammie has figured out what the Gallagher Academy is about and what is important to her. She ends with a plan for her life and the determination to stick to it.
In retrospect, I wonder if Carter sat down and said, "I'm going to write a book series for girls about the importance of fathers." Because, to a large extent, that is what this series is. The importance of Cammie's father is undeniable. He gave her the information that both put a price on her head and also helped her save her world from disaster. Cammie's father's father is at least of marginal importance, as it is to his home that Cammie goes on school breaks. Zach's feeling of rootlessness is, on some level, based in his lack of a father. Macey's feeling of importance and confidence is rooted in who her father is. Preston's father is part of the Inner Circle of the Circle of Cavan. And there is one more teenager/father pairing that becomes important at the climax of "United We Spy."