In Olson’s debut thriller, an independent contractor for the CIA looks into the murder of an operative undercover in the California art scene.
Former Navy SEAL Michael Quinn’s latest job for the CIA revolves around the late Lloyd Blackwell, an agent whose Laguna Beach art gallery had been his cover. Blackwell was clearly on to something, but all the CIA knows is that someone was moving drug money to secure a “legendary painting.” The case also involves a blood feud between Russian and Italian families, making shady art collectors Viktor Orlov and Marco Leone targets for Quinn. Posing as an art dealer, Quinn catches the eye of Leone’s girlfriend, Sienna, before tying the Italian to a new brand of heroin. Locating the painting could link its current owner to Blackwell’s murder, and it isn’t long before Quinn is dodging baddies in both Italy and the United States. Olson’s espionage story is loaded with action sequences. Quinn shares a few characteristics with a certain British spy: he starts his mission at a casino, dons a tuxedo when necessary, and even uses a gadget called a quiver, an outfitted tube for carrying and safeguarding the painting. But Olson wisely focuses on scenes befitting the ex-SEAL. Setting a limpet mine, for example, all while underwater, requires the stealth and skills his old occupation afforded him. He also excels at hand-to-hand combat and ultimately finds himself in a high-speed pursuit with a helicopter thrown into the mix. The ex-SEAL is far from impassive, earning sympathy during his opening assignment when his anonymous phone call allows members of a drug cartel to escape a cantina before he blows it up. Unfortunately, Sienna, the only significant female character, barely registers. She doesn’t seem to have any intel or association with Leone’s criminal activities. The narrative instead lingers on her physical attributes because Quinn spends much of his time ogling her, though he at least does it covertly.
This appealing spy is more than capable when shots are fired, and he’s about ready for his own series, too.