An undercover FBI agent enters dangerous territory physically and emotionally when her assignment to infiltrate an extremist cell results in her sympathizing with some of the group’s members.
In Ridenour’s (Beyond the Cabin, 2019, etc.) third thriller featuring FBI agent Alexis “Lexie” Montgomery, the protagonist, now age 33 and barely recovered from her last harrowing mission, ignores the advice of her therapist. Lexie agrees to infiltrate an ecoterrorist group linked to an international animal rights workshop called The Gathering. The workshop, held in the Netherlands, aims to teach the use of illegal action, such as bomb-making and countersurveillance, purportedly to save animals from suffering and exploitation. A Dutch police constable, working undercover investigating the eco-extremists for two years, has vanished, and Lexie, familiar with animal rights activists, seems perfect to learn what happened to him. Her new partner—fit, long-haired, bearded Special Agent Blake Bennett—feels attracted to her. Although initially a romance seems a slam-dunk, one of the leaders of the animal rights movement gives him some competition. Flirty, golden-skinned Holden Graham looks like a surfer and tugs at Lexie’s heartstrings, in part because he reminds her of a lost love. Others in the group appeal to the agent because of their desire to keep animals free from harm. But The Gathering is no peaceable kingdom; episodes of kidnapping, cruelty, and murder occur mid-book. Teetering between tension and anticipated passion, the novel zips along. Dialogue never feels forced, and humor weaves through, as when Blake confuses a European foot wash in the men’s room with a urinal, and uses it accordingly. Descriptions of Amsterdam’s museums, bars, Magere Brug, and surrounding countryside read like a travel blog, and the author’s past life as an FBI agent brings veracity to the investigation aspects of the story. In Lexie, readers meet a well-rounded, smart, sexy character, and one with a penchant for fresh-brewed coffee and Pat Conroy. Although the book works as a stand-alone, reading the three volumes in order obviously helps in the understanding of Lexie’s history and appreciation of her development as an agent and a woman.
A taut thriller, well told and deftly paced; highly recommended.