Having abandoned people he cared about and compromised his humanity since becoming a spy, British journalist Philip Mangan finds a chance to redeem himself when he meets a Chinese-American teenager targeted by Beijing for her genius in the field of artificial intelligence.
Mangan crosses paths with the teen, Pearl Tao, in Suriname. He has traveled to the South American country from Indonesia in an attempt to hide from his MI6 superiors in London. Pearl's parents, who, unbeknownst to her, are Chinese spies, told her they were going to Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, on vacation. But they are there to make contact with Chinese sources to whom they have promised to deliver Pearl's research. Roughly treated by her untrustworthy, panicky father, she begins to fear for her well-being. Mangan first sees Pearl and her parents in the company of a local lawyer he suspects of having ties to Chinese military intelligence. After chatting with the girl, Mangan instinctively knows she needs his help. But first, he needs to convince her that he's on her side. With the murder—could it have been by MI6?—of an American agent specializing in Chinese affairs and the fatal poisoning of his wife, the plot thickens. Brookes (Spy Games, 2015, etc.) writes in his acknowledgments that this is the final chapter for Mangan, his manipulative London boss Val Hobko, and his troubled handler and one-time lover, Trish Patterson. If so, they'll be sorely missed. In the tradition of Graham Greene, the book is a work of deep moral reckoning and a gripping thriller. As affecting as the story is, the dominant emotion it evokes is fear. Having been shot at, beaten to a pulp, imprisoned, and betrayed in Brookes' trilogy, Mangan has reason to shake in anticipation of the next shock to his system. That Brookes makes the darkest challenges his spy faces utterly believable is a testament to his skill as a novelist.
Brookes' third and possibly final novel to feature Philip Mangan sends the beaten-down rogue spy out in high style while introducing a terrific new character in a teenager trapped in her own secretive life.