Megalomaniac gangster goes on a killing spree as he tries to become Russia’s bossky of bosskies.
Attempting to thwart him is that law enforcement odd couple Danilov and Cowley, last seen in The Watchmen (2002). Dimitri Danilov, now head of Moscow’s Crime Bureau, and Bill Cowley, now head of the FBI’s Russian desk, have in the past worked well together as international investigators. They like and trust each other, which is more than either can say about the lion’s share of his home-based colleagues. But both have baggage that will prove complicating as they pursue deadly, deranged Igor Gavrilovich Orlov, who’s as wily as he is wacky. Danilov has become a man with secrets: His lover was murdered in a gangland hit, and he’s sworn to avenge her. When her killer turns out to be none other than Orlov, the temptation of vigilantism is almost overpowering. Cowley, on the other hand, is an alcoholic in denial, in part because seeking help is such an obvious downer of a career move, and so, as pressure mounts—Freemantle is a master at depicting the genteel savagery of bureaucratic infighting—the temptation of the bottle blurs his focus. In the meantime, Orlov, to whom murder is merely good business practice, fills body bags in three countries on his way to realizing his upwardly mobile dream of Mafia preeminence. At one point, quite gratuitously, he arranges a car-bombing that destroys 12 FBI agents and 16 innocent bystanders—a group that comes within an eyelash of including Danilov—while laughing at the presumption of law enforcement dullards who imagine themselves a match for Orlov’s brilliance. That he doesn’t laugh last is a given, of course. Freemantle villains never get short shrift.
The list of Freemantle’s outings runs to thirty-plus now. While this one is a smidge less than his best, no one in the field is more consistently readable.