After more than 40 years, the coverup of a diabolical Soviet experiment begins to unravel, and members of the Russian hierarchy will go to any lengths to prevent its disclosure in Pell’s (Much More Than a Game, 2015, etc.) espionage sequel.
In 1974, the twin sons of British geologist Christopher Southgate were abducted during a visit to Oman. They were never heard from again, and they were not the only set of twins to vanish. Fast-forward to the present, and Jessica Gleeson, also British, in Minsk, Belarus, is poring through Russian archives to complete a paper in her field of clinical psychology and discovers that someone has placed a folder labeled “Project Genome” on her desk. Later, when Jessica disappears, MI6 in London takes notice. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Anton Adamovich is a rising political star who’s favored by the Russian president to be his successor—but he also has enemies. Pell has the action play out across a broad landscape that includes the Crimea, Odessa, Belarus, Moscow, and London, with a large cast of tough guys that are good, bad, or somewhere in between. It’s left to MI6’s Andrew Ball to uncover the mystery that is Project Genome. Ball, Pell’s recurring hero, isn’t an action figure; the elegant, 60-something, semiretired agent has spent months recuperating from injuries received in Pell’s previous novel, set in Eastern Europe. But when his boss, Daniel Davis, calls upon Ball’s Russian-language expertise to translate some Genome documents, he’s back on the case. Although he’s not quite the central protagonist, he certainly holds the novel’s disparate pieces together. Pell is methodical in weaving a complicated plot that brings together an assortment of miscreants risen from the ashes of the fallen Soviet Union—political hacks, newly minted billionaires, former KGB agents, and, of course, the women who attach themselves to the powerful. Overall, the pages are filled with murder and mayhem, and lots of vodka, delivered in fluid, comfortable prose. Fans will be happy to learn that there’s a new Pell novel scheduled.
A well-paced thriller with enough twists to maintain momentum and provide an enjoyable ride to the mostly satisfying conclusion.