Book Review: ‘Operation Angus’ by Terry Fallis

Operation Angus is the least grounded and least realistic of Terry Fallis’s political trilogy. What started in The Best Laid Plans as a cute, fun commentary about Canadian politics with colourful and relatable characters has morphed into a nonsensical mess that makes for a frustrating read. 

We return to Fallis’s wacky duo of MP Angus McLintock and parliamentary aid and friend Daniel Addison in Operation Angus and this time they’re spies! Well, not exactly, they’re recruited for a top-secret mission by a British spy and take it upon themselves to track down a pair of Chechens who are planning a terrorist attack on Canadian soil designed to assassinate the Russian president. 

Fallis’s political commentary on the situation in Chechnya is flawed at the very least, and he comes precariously close to defending a certain Russian autocrat through a fictional counterpart. At the very least, Fallis stays in his own lane through the story, and doesn’t presume to have an advanced understanding of a very complex and longstanding conflict. Still, it feels uncomfortable to pursue the generic-Muslim-terrorists plotline in an age where Islamophobia is on the rise. 

In Operation Angus, and arguably through the entire series, Fallis falls into what I like to refer to as the “Aaron Sorkin Problem”, named after screenwriter and playwright of The West Wing, A Few Good Men, and The Newsroom fame. On the surface, the politics of the story are quite progressive. However, upon further review, it’s clear that the characters and story point to the fact that only cis-gendered, heterosexual white men are capable of political thought and leadership. 

There is beautiful tribute paid to women and People of Colour (in this book, there is a character who is both!), but it’s never anything more than words. Continuing to repeat the sentiment to the effect that women are far more intelligent than men while continuing to bill cisgender, heterosexual white men as the solution to every societal problem is questionable to say the least. 

For example, take the character of Daniel’s girlfriend Lindsay. Lindsay is described as beautiful and intelligent, and is just about to complete her masters program. At one point in the story, she is applying to doctoral programs at Oxford and Harvard and is accepted. Although Daniel insists that he will drop everything to accompany her across the pond should she choose, justifications are offered for the decision for her ultimately to decide to remain in Canada so Daniel doesn’t have to go anywhere. It’s just enough that he made the offer, and there’s no further exploration of their relationship, nor follow through of her actually accepting an offer of admission and having Daniel decide to actually choose her over his career.

The strongest part of the story, as in the previous two installments, are the characters. Angus and Daniel make such a great pair and are well-matched in wits and it was certainly enjoyable to return to their antics. The scene in which they both ultimately portray the Cannon Dolls in the Ottawa production of The Nutcracker was ultimately the most satisfying scene in the book. This scene so beautifully captures both Angus and Daniel’s respective characters and is such a joy to read. Readers can almost imagine the scene, as this is one of the strongest fan-favourite moments in any Nutcracker production.

Ultimately, Fallis’s latest installment is a flawed return to this idealistic portrayal of Canada’s incredibly flawed political system. Hopefully, if these characters reunite again it will be to return the heart and soul of the story, two men from very different contexts just trying to make a difference in their part of the world. 

Operation Angus is available in bookstores now.

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