Book Review: The Life We Lead: Ascending by George M. Nagle


The Life We Lead: Ascending
George M. Nagle 


3.5 Stars


In a world where next to government spy agencies exists ‘the group,’ a private clandestine organization, George Nagle gives us the first of his adventure, spy thriller The Life We Lead. A sort of ‘A-Team,’ this collection of young adult privateers look to take down criminal syndicates on behalf of those being taken advantage of. While vague, it’s definitely a noble cause. Nagle’s story focuses upon the most skillful member, James, as he goes up against the Spara family, the world’s largest drug cartel. The drive to take out this drug cartel is singular even though the story takes readers down so many seemingly circuitous paths. Such a story requires readers to pay attention but not overly so and the author always rewards attention with dynamic scenes.

Nagle’s twist on the spy thriller is the members of the secretive group are all young adults making this series something that may appeal to audiences who enjoyed the film series Kingsmen, only without the cartoonish gimmicks. In fact, Nagle has a prose style that is not just accessible but smooth and a sense of plotting balancing suspense and action quite well. Readers will find they can visualize the story quite well while the prose remains dynamic.

One of the reasons, The Life We Lead succeeds is that Nagle knows the ins-and-out of hand-to-hand combat and gives his hero James a wonderful ability to size people up granting a realism to his international men of mystery and mobsters. What readers will also find refreshing is Nagel’s avoidance of easy stereotypes to get readers from one plot point or action scene to another. This is not to say the author doesn’t rely on some tried and true tropes of the genre. Yet, there’s a reason for it; when not burden in hyperbole or lazy writing, they work. For example, early in the novel James saves the life of a Russian acquaintance under extreme pressure from a distrustful gang:

After washing and drying his hands, James returned and punched Igor squarely on the right cheek, knocking him to the floor.
‘Don’t ever put a gun on me again,’ he said in a clear, but unemotional voice. The room was stunned.
Ola broke the silence. ‘Igor is sorry, I am sure.’
She plainly understood. James would do what he needed to do, but he wasn’t going to be pushed around. He had patience, and that made him a formidable enemy, but it could also make him a strong ally.

We’ve all seen this scene before in films and read it in thrillers. It works, it’s effective, and, even if it is recognizable, it is pleasing. Nagle writes James as clinically pragmatic making the young man more than just a Jason Bourne-esque tool but a calculating force in the world of espionage. 

The story is at its best when James is engaged in the action of his lifestyle. His pragmatism and creativity are his greatest strengths rivaling any iteration of James Bond. Nagle counters this with James’ internal conflict and anxiety as he pursues a romance with Carissa. There is very little in the novel which won’t satisfy readers. The Life We Lead is cinematic literature and ought to find a place in your library next to Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Joseph Finder, or David Baldacci.

For a debut, The Life We Lead: Ascending is grand success–well balanced, fast-paced, and narratively satisfying. Anyone who reads this thriller will end up eagerly awaiting the author’s next work.


Author Bio


George Nagle earned his BS in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh, his MS in Biology and his MBA in Marketing and Management from Duquesne University. He is also a Master 5th degree black belt in the art of Taekwondo with Young Brothers in Pittsburgh. He currently is working as a global marketing director in sciences. He is currently single, but has a son.

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