TAKE THE BAI ROAD by Erika Mitchell


From the "The Bai Hsu Series" series, volume 2
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In the second installment of Mitchell’s (Bai Tide, 2015, etc.) spy series, a CIA operative on an off-the-books mission tracks mysterious, cartel-affiliated cargo in Mexico.

Case officer Bai Hsu has been handling boring desk work at the agency since his last assignment, during which he suffered torture and frostbite. He’s happy to get another mission, courtesy of the staff-operations officer for Mexico, Sören Faro, who’s interested in a shipment recently picked up by a new drug-running organization he calls the “Ghost Cartel.” This new group may be cooperating with another, more established cartel and shipping product through the latter’s territory. Faro also suspects a leak in the CIA, which seems to be confirmed when someone plants a bomb in his car. Bai begins an unsanctioned undercover assignment—joining the crew of the Ghost Cartel’s ship, the Alexandria—while reporting to Raymond Cobb of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations (formerly known as the Clandestine Service). He searches the deck at night before finding the shipment—a crate containing drugs and something else that may be more important. Bai follows the cargo back to land, where he adopts the cover of the cartel’s contact and confronts a murderous drug lord. More answers may be found back in the United States, but there, Bai is officially AWOL, and authorities have labeled him a rogue officer. Mitchell’s winning tale, much like the crate in question, is constantly in motion, taking Bai from one perilous predicament to the next; along the way, he passes through two cities rife with civil unrest and loses communication with Cobb. Mitchell portrays her narrator protagonist as undeniably professional—he kills only out of necessity—and endlessly charming: “I spat a word autocorrect would have changed to ‘duck.’ ” However, the author doesn’t allow the humor to trounce the suspense; specifically, she stokes the ever present possibility of a CIA mole working with the Ghost Cartel, which forces Bai to find allies among untrustworthy strangers.

Fast-paced, invigorating, and entertaining.

Publisher: Champagne Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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