Best-selling French novelist de Villiers, who died in 2013, wrote more than 200 books about suave Austrian spy Malko Linge; this is the first to be translated into English in decades.
Linge, who comes from the Austrian nobility, is a freelance spy for the CIA; he's the go-to guy when the target is gorgeous and needs wooing. This time he’s working for the Company's station chief in Cairo, trying to secure top-level intelligence on a man the Americans hope to deposit on the Libyan throne. A wealthy playboy, Ibrahim al-Senussi has been seduced by the idea of returning to his family’s ancestral stomping grounds and running the country. He takes his gorgeous girlfriend, a model named Cynthia Mulligan, with him to Cairo for a series of meetings with men who may or may not be on his side. While terrorists plot to kill the would-be king, Linge romances his blonde bombshell of a girlfriend to help figure out what he's up to, while trying to stay alive in a rapidly evolving political climate that heats up with the fall of the notorious Libyan dictator. The author was a journalist, and his intimate knowledge of regional geopolitics gives this book a ripped-from-the-headlines feel; the plot, however, is pedestrian. Linge, brought in because he is supposedly an expert at romancing women, tends to twiddle his thumbs a lot. And the “master spy” doesn’t seem very competent: At one point he and his fellow agents search for a known terrorist in the terrorist’s homeland by stopping at gas stations and asking if anyone knows where he lives.
A ton of coincidences and a dry, journalistic approach to fiction render this spy novel no threat to Ian Fleming’s legacy.