VALLEY OF SPIES by Keith Yocum
Kirkus Star


From the "Dennis Cunningham" series, volume 3
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Just months into early retirement from the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General, a former investigator accepts an agency contract to hunt for a missing person, one who knows his darkest secrets.  

In Yocum’s (A Dark Place, 2018, etc.) third—and best yet—Dennis Cunningham thriller, Dennis finds that retirement and relocation to Perth, home of longtime girlfriend and Aussie policewoman Judy White, offers him a lifestyle so relaxed that it bores him. A mandatory meeting with the director of the CIA, whose flight has a stopover in Australia, livens things up. The director explains that Dr. Jane Forrester, a therapist approved to treat agency members, disappeared while visiting New Zealand. Key members of the CIA determine a specific foreign country is responsible for the abduction, and a counterstrike against that nation is likely. But before authorizing the attack, the director gives Dennis, who has a zest and a rep for tracking people down, two weeks to find Forrester—or discover what happened to her—and to confirm agency intel. The director explains there are lots of reasons why an adversary would want to get their hands on the therapist—she “knows too much about her patients. She knows their weaknesses, their vulnerabilities.” She, in fact, knew Dennis’—she had been his therapist. The search for Forrester reconnects rough-around-the-edges Dennis with his former boss, Louise Nordland. The “tough, diminutive” ex-SEAL and Dennis had issues with each other in the past, but soon (sorry, Judy) sexual tension between the pair ramps up. Yocum skillfully varies the pace throughout this thriller and doesn’t shrink from brutal scenes of killings. Dialogue rings true, and descriptions suit the genre: “He had a pronounced underbite that pushed his chin forward into a reptilian face.” Yocum metes out backstory organically, and his nonstandard characters range from a confident, sexy, blonde amputee to Dennis himself—known for a drinking problem, about to become a grandfather, and still haunted by his own horrific childhood.

A taut, thoughtful thriller; third in a series but also works as a stand-alone.

Page count: 266pp
Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2019


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