In the finale of Freemantle's Red Star trilogy, British agent Charlie Muffin must outwit both his Russian captors and MI6 schemers who want him dead.
Making his 16th appearance in a series dating back to 1977, Muffin spends most of the book under wraps. Shot by an MI6 assassin at a Moscow airport while trying to escape Russia with his wife and young daughter, he is nursed back to health by the FSB, the agency that succeeded the KGB. They are determined to find out everything he knows, then inflict maximum punishment in retaliation for his blowing the cover of one of their prize triple agents. In a previous book, Charlie faked defecting to Russia and secretly married Natalia Fedova, the FSB operative who first debriefed him. Now, he is desperate to find out whether Natalia and little Sasha, who were at the airport with him, made it safely back to England. The wheels spin as Charlie's MI5 colleagues try to counter MI6 chief Gerald Monsford’s cutthroat moves, Charlie plays games of deception with the Russians, and Natalia plots to save Charlie. A master of understatement, Freemantle can sometimes be a rather bloodless stylist with his clipped dialogue and tightly wound narrative. Charlie lives to spy another day—no spoiler alert needed there—but don't expect any kind of breathless climax.
In Freemantle's latest sophisticated spy thriller, the Muffin man remains a compelling figure, even in convalescent mode.