Former CIA analyst Lee Carruthers returns in Larew’s (The Spider Catchers, 2013) thriller, this time searching for a murderer in Dubai and stepping into the middle of a war between arms dealers.
Lee knows it was her former employers who sent Cynthia Branson to her door. Cynthia wants to know where her two-years-absent husband, George, is so she can serve him with divorce papers. George was killed in Dubai, but the CIA is reluctant to tell Cynthia, because it doesn’t know why; Lee, hired by Cynthia, is determined to do the detective work herself. But she finds more than a simple murder: George, who had been using false identities in both Dubai and Istanbul, had more than one stash of uncut diamonds. Furthermore, Felix Gringikov, a Belarusian arms dealer for whom George had worked, has been missing for a couple of years. Lee suspects Felix’s Russian rival, Sergei Malyakov, of the murder, but that doesn’t explain who’s following her. The author’s appealing protagonist makes a welcome second appearance in a story that’s stronger and more riveting than her previous outing. The plot isn’t without its snags: it’s never clear why Lee simply doesn’t tell Cynthia that George is dead or why she stays on the case after her client’s death, which even Lee eventually questions. Most readers, however, will likely forgive such flaws because the story packs on suspense when Lee consistently spots her on a multi-country journey, from the warm Dubai winter to cold, snowy Istanbul. Supporting characters are outstanding, especially Lee’s seemingly endless contacts, including stockbroker Willy Soo and her quasi-partner, Fred Atkins, an ex-Marine whom Lee affectionately (or not) refers to as the Marlboro Man. The fact that Lee is still a standout among all the characters is a testament to her aptitude: she’s comfortable around computers, with a Glock in her hand, or, if the situation calls for it, in a show of fisticuffs. Larew’s narrative is so incisive that Lee’s frequent updates on the case—internally or to characters in the vicinity—really aren’t necessary. Readers will probably guess one plot twist, but another twist or two aren’t as easy to predict.
Lee’s charm and tenacity can conquer any obstacle, even an unsteady premise.