By Shirley Li
Updated October 02, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Continent-hopping chases, high-stakes ops, and intra-agency romances are all well-worn espionage-thriller clichés, but Blowback‘s reliance on them is offset by a critical asset: coauthor Valerie Plame, the former covert CIA operative who famously resigned when her cover was blown in 2003. Her insider intel guides the novel, a cat-and-mouse game between CIA officer Vanessa Pierson and an international nuclear-arms dealer who’s assassinating her informants. Plame, aided by crime writer Sarah Lovett, hits the target in her fiction debut, setting up a planned series with a high-octane tale of deception. B