With Kirk McGarvey’s return to action after a one-book hiatus, old pro Hagberg (Joshua’s Hammer, 2000, etc.) shows that his hand’s still firm on the thriller.
McGarvey is 50 now and graying at the temples, but “the best field officer the CIA has ever known” maintains that “rugby player’s physique,” and, with those “honest gray-green eyes,” he’s no less the chick magnet than ever. Also—in this 14th venture into tricky, sticky, geopolitical quagmires—he’s finally reached the pinnacle of his profession. In a couple of days, Senate confirmation hearings will begin on his appointment as DCI, Director of Central Intelligence. Not that he’s absolutely certain he wants the job—it’s dangerous in a variety of ways and thankless in every way—but since President Haynes wants him in the post, McGarvey, patriot that he is, feels he has no choice. Roiling the waters, however, is Senator Thomas Hammond, chairman of the pertinent subcommittee, whose view of McGarvey’s qualifications runs dramatically counter to the President’s. Vitriolic and venomous Senator Hammond does little to hide the fact that he views McGarvey as a loose cannon, that he dislikes him personally, and that he intends—by fair means or foul—to block his appointment. And he’s got company. Consider Valentin Baranov, for instance, once the evil genius behind the most vicious of KGB operations. Never mind that he’s dead, rendered so by a bullet from McGarvey’s gun. What matters is that his demonic Operation Martyr isn’t, and that it can be triggered posthumously in a particularly repellent way—triggered, that is, by someone in McGarvey’s inner circle, someone he’s always thought of as above suspicion. McGarvey now has to discover who, among those he loves and trusts, is most likely to be his betrayer.
Le Carré manqué, true enough, but spymeister Hagberg can percolate an action scene with the best of them.