In this thriller, a CIA operative’s simple reconnaissance job in Russia runs into complications while a former French intelligence agent gets the chance to stop a Nazi war criminal.
Following a successful operation in Afghanistan, Nathan Adamson of the CIA’s Special Operations Group is due for some downtime. But Adamson prefers working, as it keeps his mind off of “quitting”—recurrent thoughts of killing himself. So he accepts an offer from Tara Yarwick, a psychologist for the Joint Special Operations Command. Adamson is ideal for a proposed operation in Russia. He has Russian lineage and speaks the language. But the JSOC doesn’t quite know what it’s looking for, only that there’s questionable activity and rumors surrounding Russia’s new spaceport, Vostochny Cosmodrome. Unfortunately, Adamson’s assignment to find verification of whatever is going on has an unforeseen hurdle: Armed men suddenly attack him in Russia. An apparent JSOC leak has compromised the mission, and now Adamson has been targeted by enigmatic Russian agent Karambit and his hit squad, the Unit. Meanwhile, Sophia de Marenches, an aging French veteran whom Adamson regularly visits in a Virginia retirement home, has a dilemma. Having been a part of the Resistance during World War II and later French intelligence, Sophia recognizes on TV a Nazi who evaded capture after the war. She relays her suspicions to agents who stop by the home, or at least she thinks so, as her memory is unreliable. She needs Adamson’s help, but he’s busy in Russia, where he’s fairly certain he’s stumbled on plans for an invasion.
Despite the elaborate plot, Huskins (Kinjin, 2017, etc.) concentrates the story on the captivating characters of Adamson and Sophia. The tale, for one, explores Adamson’s psychological state: He continually replays in his head the final pleas of a man he assassinated. Though this links to his oft-referenced desire to take his own life, there are also instances of hopefulness; another mental refrain is Sophia telling him, “Come back to me.” At the same time, the narrative provides perspective into Sophia’s constant struggle with remembering: “Already, I feel the memory of our meeting fading. It’s like fighting off sleep when you’ve been up more than twenty-four hours.” While the dual lead characters have their own distinctive qualities, they’re just as remarkable for their similarities. Elderly Sophia is near the end of her life while Adamson is looking to terminate his; it’s one of the multiple ways the novel slyly connects the two. Huskins keeps the plot moving with a steady supply of action scenes (primarily with Adamson) and myriad twists (the identity of the mole; surprising Russian technology; and the CIA agent’s unexpected ally). There are indeed occasional bouts of violence; watching someone intimidate the nearly 100-year-old Sophia is particularly daunting. But the author fills his pages with indelible imagery. For example, as Adamson clandestinely traverses Russia, he notes the environment: “The loneliness cannot be understated. It is a vast, beautiful, unending sea of silent hills, some of them green with stubborn grass and moss, but most of it just bald rock.”
A stirring spy tale with two unforgettable protagonists.