Who misses the Cold War? Rookie novelist Jones sure does. This talky, misogynist thriller churns out one spy clichÇ after another while pitting the usual Yankee badasses against a rogues' gallery of recidivist, pre-glasnost curs. With CIA double agent Jack Calumet, you get exactly what's expected from this genre: a jittery antihero who cherishes patriotism but has few qualms about loosening his canon to defy authority. Calumet has scammed the Russians into believing that he's working for them, which makes him the ideal point man, or ``Soldier Boy,'' for Operation Odyssey, an elaborate, feint-and-counter-feint scheme devised by the CIA to spirit a top Russian scientist (also spying for the Americans) out of harm's way. Sneaking around Berlin while consistently frustrating his CIA handlers and surveillance teams with brazen, unorthodox tactics, Calumet eventually contacts the urbanely malevolent Andrei Vartanyan, a Russian superspy (complete with cigarette case) who's itching to blow Calumet's cover. After a lengthy battle of wits, Calumet convinces Vartanyan that he's loyal to the resurrected communist cause—or at least such a mercenary that he couldn't belong to the CIA. This lays the groundwork for an intricate game of deception that will force Calumet to depend on all his resources, from trusted superiors to Belgian forgers and Israeli Mossad freelancers trafficking in weapons. Complications abound, however: Calumet has to wrestle with his affection for an incompetent femme fatale (in one particularly laughable scene, he ``breaks'' her allegiance to Russian military intelligence) and steer clear of European DEA agents who think he's a heroin dealer. This unnecessarily convoluted (and sometimes self-indulgent) debut culminates in a guns-a-blazin' firefight that pairs Calumet with Delta Force commando Rick Rossetti as they pursue Vartanyan and another Russian spymaster through a secret underground arsenal. Insufficient camaraderie, not enough shooting, and an excess of banter.
Read full book review >