A guileless would-be terrorist looking to buy a missile stirs up a hornet’s nest of Russian and American agents, each working his own dangerous angle.
Ever since a misdirected American drone wiped out most of his family, Parviz Amritzar, a naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan, has thirsted for revenge. Now his online research, whipped up by a local imam, has led him to a plan: he’ll get hold of an Igla-5 missile and shoot down Air Force One. Money is no object to Amritzar, whose wholesale carpet business has made him wealthy, but geopolitics is. The Igla-5 is manufactured in Russia, and the Russians aren’t eager to sell any of the missiles to a freelancer. But FBI assistant director Leslie Bryant, head of the Vanguard counterterrorist unit, is eager to pretend to partner with Amritzar long enough to get evidence against him that’ll lock him up forever; Bruce Hathaway, operations director of the Moscow FBI, is willing to ask Col. Sergei Tretyakov, of the FSB, to supply him with an Igla-5 to dangle in front of Amritzar; and spymaster Rem Tolkachev, briefed on this highly unusual transaction, sees no reason why he shouldn’t take advantage of it to set a trap for Hathaway so that he can be arrested and duly exchanged for Viktor Bout, an arms merchant imprisoned in the U.S. With so many players playing so many different games, there’s scarcely room for freelance CIA agent Malko Linge (Revenge of the Kremlin, 2015, etc.), but he manages to shake up the playing field, bed the best-looking women, kill the underlings most in need of killing, and save the world.
When you’ve published more than 200 spy novels, as de Villiers (1929-2013) did, some are bound to be unnervingly prescient. This one, which reads like a retro parody of James Bond (the high-tech weaponry! the double-crosses! the garter belts!), won’t cost you a single night’s sleep.