Ploys and counter-ploys, motives sincere and suspicious, agents trustworthy and treacherous—plus a daunting lexicon of spy-agency jargon, terms and acronyms—highlight a complex thriller about the search for a “most wanted” terrorist.
Like just about everyone else who appears in this intricate tale from British journalist Stock (Dead Spy Running, 2010, etc.), the storyteller in the Marrakech marketplace is more than he appears to be. Besides regaling visitors, he passes on, in code, orders to Daniel Marchant, late of Britain’s MI6, to head into the nearby mountains where Salim Dhar, who recently attempted to assassinate the president of the United States, may be hiding out. In the well-crafted set piece that follows, Marchant watches as six U.S. Marines are captured, but not before Dhar appears before them and is taken out. Or is he? Washington’s National Security Agency, eager to annihilate Dhar—and score a coup over MI6—insists he was. But Marchant thinks Dhar lives on. A labyrinthine plot with an overriding theme of trust ensues. Sipping scotch back in Marrakech, Marchant meets CIA op Lakshmi Meena, who happens to mention the "'half-brother thing'" between Marchant and Dhar, something to which M16 operatives in Britain are keenly attuned. Fearing Dhar may be at the center of plans to launch a massive terrorist attack on London, the intelligence agency thinks Marchant’s fraternal tie to Dhar may afford an approach to the terrorist. But some at M16 distrust Marchant’s allegiances since his late father, who had been at MI6, was thought by some to be a covert Russian agent. Russia likewise questions Dhar’s sympathies and wants him to prove his loyalty. It is left to the younger Marchant to reach Dhar and force his hand—or to reveal his own loyalties.
Scattered clichés and a threadbare Mata Hari subplot aside, this one will please fans.