“It is a dangerous time to be alive.” Indeed, as this fast-paced thriller by seasoned mysterian Pavone (The Travelers, 2016, etc.) proves.
A siren wails in Paris, a once-rare sound often heard in these times of terror. It’s gone off because a jihadi has strapped a bomb to himself and is standing in front of the Louvre, “in the epicenter of Western civilization,” waiting for his moment. But is he a jihadi? Who’s put him up to this dastardly deed, and why? That’s for Kate Moore, deep-cover CIA agent, “sidewalk-swimming in a sea of expat moms,” to suss out. Kate lives in a shadow world, so hidden away that even her hedge-fund-master husband doesn’t have a clue about what she does: “Dexter has been forced to accept that she’s entitled to her secrets,” Pavone writes, adding, “He’s had plenty of his own.” Indeed, and in the shadowy parallel world of speculative finance, he’s teamed up with a fast-living entrepreneur who wants nothing more than to become superrich and run off with his “assistant-concubine.” Hunter Forsyth is about to announce a huge deal, but suddenly he’s disappeared, whisked away by shadowy people who, by the thin strings of suspense, have something to do with that bomb across town. So does a vengeful young mom, strapped to a useless husband and bent on payback for a long-ago slight. All this is red meat to Kate, who’s tired of the domestic life, no matter how much a sham, and is happier than a clam when “running her network of journalists, bloggers, influencers, as well as drug dealers, thieves, prostitutes, and cops, plus diplomats and soldiers, maitre d’s and concierges and bartenders and shopkeepers.” With all those players, mercenaries, and assorted bad guys thrown into the mix, you just know that the storyline is going to be knotty, and it resolves in a messy spatter of violence that’s trademark Pavone and decidedly not for the squeamish.
A satisfying puzzler, one to shelve alongside le Carré, Forsyth, and other masters of foreign intrigue.