COBRAVILLE by Carsten Stroud


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Bad spooks, good spooks—gadzooks, it’s hard to tell them apart.

There’s a hush-hush CIA unit called the Special Collections Service, and six of its highly trained members have been sent into deepest Philippines on a covert mission having to do with the repair of vital surveillance equipment. The mission is headed by Cole Langan, ex-army captain and increasingly disenchanted with it, a view shared by all in his command—too many unreliable people to deal with, too many operational aspects hanging loose. Such is his disquiet, in fact, that Cole has reluctantly begun to distrust his long-admired boss, Levi Sloane, the CIA’s Deputy Director of Operations, the man responsible for putting the mission together. In this, Cole's not alone. Joining him, for instance, is Senator Drew Langan, a member of the influential Intelligence Oversight Committee and, not so incidentally, Cole’s dad. He’s a friend of Sloane’s, but he, too, finds doubt creeping in and darkening his mindset. Much of this has its source in another enigmatic figure. Zen-like and bear-like Gunther Krugman lumbers around in the corridors of power, a fixture, though no one quite knows how he got there. No matter. What does matter—a lot—is that one bleak night in DC, in the Library Bar of the St. Regis Hotel, Krugman hands Drew a certain envelope, requesting that the contents be carefully studied. Pressed, he characterizes the package as, in effect, a warning. About what? About whom? About Sloan? About someone even closer? Krugman won’t say, but as the mystery deepens—and as dangers mount for both father and son—Krugman himself comes under suspicion, giving rise at one point to a beleaguered secret agent’s legitimate complaint: “All of this is so damn convoluted.”

Terrific with action scenes, but Stroud (Cuba Strait, 2003, etc.) undercuts them with relentless plotting and reams of expository dialogue.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-7432-4390-0
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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