Add a pinch of Putin to the pot, boil for 300-plus pages, serve Higgins Stew to a reliably hungry audience.
The Russians, it seems, are in search of lost swagger. According to the best thinkers in U.S. and U.K. corridors of power, they want to replay the Cold War. “But not with nuclear submarines this time,” U.S. President Jake Cazalet is warned. Instead, with gas and oil judiciously used for bribing and/or browbeating—as the case warrants—in aid of the Putin vision. What he seeks is restoration, the return of his country to its glory days when no one dared toy with the Russian bear. To thwart and block becomes the task of master spy Sean Dillon and his tiny team of trusty operatives, who will need all the help they can get. Fortunately, it’s available. Almost the equal of Dillon in geopolitical cunning—and every bit his equal in death-dealing—is the team’s newest recruit, Harry Miller, a sort of latter-day Scarlet Pimpernel. To most observers, Miller appears a staid, color-me-gray MP unaccountably married to the eminently desirable Olivia Hunt, that talented and gorgeous ornament of the British stage. That he’s actually a stone killer is, however, known well indeed to a very nasty coterie on the Russian side, who, in retaliation for ravages to their ranks accomplished by Miller forays, arrange a lethal contract. It backfires. Someone dear to all concerned is murdered by mistake. Aroused, considering themselves under attack, Sean Dillon & Co. plan a retaliation in kind and, in the end, as so often before, slay their dozens in defense of the realm.
Clearly, Higgins (The Killing Ground, 2008, etc.) has little interest in varying the recipe, and readers who’ve savored before will no doubt savor again.