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Title: The Discrete Charm of Charlie Monk [Hardcover]

5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Great Book! Jan. 4 2004
Format:Paperback
This is the third Ambrose book I have read and all seem to be totally different in style. This is probably the best one. It seems to combine The Matrix with James Bond and some generic engineering. You never know what is real and what is virtual reality.
Charlie Monk is a super agent recruited by the government to perform Bond-like tasks. In some cases some of Charlie's actions seem like the work of a covert operation where the government may be eliminating witnesses, so we are not sure whether or not Charlie is a good guy or a bad guy.
Also, Charlie seems to not really be able to remember his past (note: there is a quote in the front of the book from Sean Connery saying the same thing about the James Bond character not having any past prior to being a secret agent). Addiitionally, there is a doctor forced to help the government in some experiments involving patients with no short term memory so you are not sure if Charlie was one of those patients or not. Sometimes the author takes you along a different path and makes you think Charlie is something else. (I will not say anymore along these lines because I do not want to spoil it for the reader).
The book never gets boring and there is plenty of action and psychological drama going on. I practically finished this book in one sitting, it was that good!
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply One of the Best Action/Thrillers I've Ever Read May 25 2004
By Gypsi Phillips Bates - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Oh boy. . . How do I review this book in more than the one word "wow!"?
Charlie Monk is specialist, a killer for a government agency so high it has no name. He's the best of the best--he does his job perfectly and asks no questions. Or at least, he didn't.
When he runs into an old friend, things start to go odd with his life. Charlie starts to question things. . . things that others higher up apparently don't want questioned.
What might sound like the run-of-the-mill action thriller is anything BUT run-of-the-mill. What Charlie discovers is earthshaking for him. He is delivered one shattering punch after the other, and the reader shares the shock of those punches.
The only flaw I could find in this novel was the occasional absence of description and that sometimes too much happens at one time. Both of these are common in this genre and in no way lessened my enjoyment of this fantastic book. Sure, it's not a literary gem like Pride and Prejudice or Lolita or Rebecca, but it is simply one of the best novels I've ever read. I picked it up, on a whim, thinking that my husband might like it. Turns out we both did!
I'd love to tell you more. I wish I could give you the reasons that I read this book through in one evening, but I can't ruin it for you. So, do yourself a favor: if you have any interest in a roller coaster trip for the mind, get this book, buckle yourself in and enjoy the wild, unforgettable ride.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wild thriller March 7 2003
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Super agent Charlie Monk believes he works for an agency so stratospherically secret, the work force will not mention its name even in the most secure room. However, Charlie sometimes wonders who he really is. Though he performs perfectly when he works in the cold as a killing machine with no conscience completing his mission, Charlie has problems recalling mundane obvious details from his past.
When on home leave in Los Angeles, Charlie sleeps with a myriad of women and paints landscapes that some dealer buys before the canvas dries. In Washington D.C., Dr. Susan Flemyng conducts cutting edge experiments on replacing visual memory in the minds of amnesia victims. However, the government has forced her to work for a top-secret agency whose name is classified by kidnapping her son. Her guinea pigs include Charlie.
This Walter Mitty type tale starring a protagonist like James Bond or Derek Flint will leave the audience wondering who Charlie is. The story line grips the reader with that question from the onset, but when the answer seems obvious David Ambrose cleverly twists the plot around so that the audience has to repeat the query. Fans of strange thrillers will want to read the DISCRETE CHARM OF CHARLIE MONK in one sitting because the tale provides a wonderful espionage story within a medical subplot inside a weird but deep character study, contained in etc. etc. etc. Yet all of this yada yada yada turns into a tremendous novel.
Harriet Klausner
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the Reader Who Wants to Stay Up All Night July 7 2003
By FictionAddiction.NET - Published on Amazon.com
In The Discrete Charm of Charlie Monk, David Ambrose has created a thriller with enough twists and turns that, by the end of the book, you're not sure what is true and what is reality. The character of Charlie Monk is not sure, either. All he knows is that his memories have been tampered with and his only hope of survival lies with the person who did the tampering.
Dr. Susan Flemyng discovered a way to enhance the memories of patients who suffered with long-term amnesia using visual memory implants. Funding for the research came through the Pilgrim Group. She never questioned who they were until they forced her to use her knowledge in a top-secret government project that needed the type of tweaking she could do to visual memory.
In Charlie Monk's reality (the one he thinks he has always known), he has been trained as a secret government agent whose specialty is the prevention of terrorism. His job is to obey orders with no questions and no regrets and he has remained true to that tenet.
Until a persistent memory of a girl he used to know refuses to leave him alone because, as strong as the memory remains, he cannot recall anything specific about this girl other than her name. When he thinks he sees her on a mission, he goes against orders. When he wakes up after being detained by his superiors, he learns that his life might not be what he thought it was.
Nothing is what you expect it to be in The Discrete Charm of Charlie Monk. With carefully chosen scenes and descriptions, David Ambrose makes the reader question the reality of what is being read. His craftiness prevents the reader from discovering the truth and will create questions that you don't want to think about or have the answer to. If you're looking for a book that will keep you guessing and reading until the early hours of the morning, this is the book for you.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Caricature of a Thriller April 11 2006
By J. Brian Watkins - Published on Amazon.com
This is the story of the ultimate covert operative. It is almost entirely plot with a half-hearted attempt to throw in some characterization. All the typical elements of the genre are present--government power gone awry, fantasic scientific progress known to only a select few, assassinations, missions impossible, etc. Despite the formulaic nature of the story, Mr. Ambrose manages to capture your attention as he throws everything into hyperdrive--no chapter seemed to be longer than five pages and nothing really ever resolves. An ending that was obviously meant to be philosophically enigmatic just made me think, "huh?" and then quickly left my mind. If you are looking for a book that leaves you thinking about anything--pick something else. This one wraps up quicker than a TV movie.

Frankly, the author borrowed a great deal; from Fleming to Ludlum with a dash of Clancy and the pacing of Cussler. As pure entertainment it succeeded but it aspires to absolutely nothing more. In striving for mystery and the "killer twist" this author goes just a bit too far, pushes just a little too hard. The story is too far removed from reality.

So, if you are stuck in an airport or have a couple of hours to kill, pick it up--it is a quick read and holds your attention reasonably well. Just don't bring high expectations...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wild Ride May 31 2004
By Debra Hamel - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
David Ambrose's suspense-filled The Discrete Charm of Charlie Monk offers one of the strangest, most labyrinthine plots I've ever encountered. It's a difficult novel to pin down: Bourne Identity meets Memento meets St. Elsewhere meets...but if I told you the final element it would give away the biggest surprise in the book.

The Charlie Monk to whose discrete charm the book's title refers is a highly trained government operative who works for an organization so secretive even he couldn't identify it. Given orders in clandestine meetings by his otherwise nameless master, Control, Charlie undertakes thrilling, James Bond-worthy missions--and in his off hours satisfies his Bond-sized appetites. Charlie is the perfect secret agent, focused single-mindedly on the task at hand, obedient, almost effortlessly lethal, and loyal, having been rescued by his current employers from an unpleasant childhood in an abusive orphanage. Charlie's memories of that period of his life are curiously indistinct, but that is something the book's other principal character can help him with: Dr. Susan Flemyng is a brilliant research scientist who specializes in the brain's retention of visual memories. She and Charlie cross paths repeatedly in the book.

For the most part the writing in The Discrete Charm of Charlie Monk is transparent, as is appropriate in a book you want to speed read through. (I clocked in at just over 24 hours.) In a few action scenes, however, the narrative seems abbreviated, as if a paragraph or two were left out in the rush of describing dramatic events, and the reader is left confused about exactly what is happening. But it doesn't matter. The Discrete Charm of Charlie Monk is a wild ride that's well worth the read.

Reviewed by Debra Hamel, author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece
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