Ex-spooks play a murderous game in Freemantle’s suspenseful latest (Dead End, 2005, etc.).
His CIA colleagues gave Jack Mason a high rating. He was a spook’s spook—smart, intuitive, relentless. Too bad he worked for the wrong side. For a long time, he was, as they say, embedded, a double agent working with Colonel Dimitri Sobell of the KGB. Enter that most unexpected of intruders, Cupid. The colonel falls deeply in love—with Jack Mason’s disenchanted wife. Soon, Moscow will be calling Sobell home, and if he’s to remain with Ann, he has no choice but to defect. In addition, he brings Mason in from the cold the hard way, ratting him out to the CIA. Mason draws 20 years but gets it cut to 15, a period he devotes in large measure to imagining revenge fantasies. Meanwhile, Dimitri becomes Daniel Slater and, with Ann and their 14-year-old son, disappears into the Witness Protection Program. Now he operates a thriving industrial security business and Mrs. Slater an up-and-coming art gallery. Life is good—until word reaches them of Mason’s parole. Though shaken at first by the news, Slater recovers quickly, convinced that the Witness Protection camouflage is impenetrable, even by a spy as accomplished as Mason. Ann, however, panics. Even more than Slater, she appreciates Mason’s twisted cleverness, his obsessiveness, his capacity for hatred—all fed by 15 years of contemplating his betrayal. The payback he has so long envisioned is to be artful, meticulously designed and exquisitely slow: “Only after inflicting every conceivable hurt and loss would he finally kill Sobell.” And so it begins, the oh-so-deadly game of One Survivor.
Though the oeuvre now numbers in the 30s, this bleak, chilling entry demonstrates well that the veteran thrillermeister can still make a reader gulp.