A single piece of paper that could trigger massive fatalities disappears in this cryptic thriller.
Ex-MI6 field officer Dunn turns to a plot centering on a doomsday scenario. At an abandoned Soviet military barracks in Berlin in 1995, two Russians and two Americans gather to sign a document for an operation called Slingshot. Slingshot could cause the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, and so secret are its plans that the signatories are told they will be killed if they leak details. With the mystery of the plan’s contents hovering, proceedings shift to the present and to Gdansk, Poland, where Will Cochrane, the eponymous protagonist of Spycatcher (2011) and Sentinel (2012), waits at night by the Vistula River to connect with a defector from the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. Allegedly, the defector carries “a single piece of paper” that is “lethal.” But no sooner does the defector leap from an arriving Russian ship—in a swift and sharply written chase scene—than he is apparently kidnapped by a group of men in a van, who, it turns out, may be a privately funded group. Cut to Langley, where Flintlock, a CIA group so exclusive even the CIA at large knows not of its existence, assembles a group to retrieve the Russian agent and the vital paper. Eventually, all turn to Cochrane to spearhead the hunt. As usual, the opaque Cochrane remains a swift and deadly killing machine and an aficionado of Assam tea (brewed from leaves). But this time, he enters into—and sometimes becomes lost in—an infinitely more complex game, one played by many hands from several sides and involving enough characters (few entirely trustworthy, of course) to populate a minor Russian novel. Tricky and circuitous as the plotting becomes, it ultimately converges on a moving, personal story.
Perhaps more cerebral and less breathtaking then Spycatcher but as rewarding as championship bridge.