The seventh in Angliss’ (In the State I’m In, 2015, etc.) espionage series finds its Australian protagonist on assignment to thwart an African drug lord while falling in love with his agent-aide.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation sends Luthan Fennes and Priscilla Cassidy to Mozambique to take down known drug lord Col. Saidi Rusere. The two operatives already have a connection: Fennes, aka the Retimer, trained Priscilla when she was a recruit. But before their latest mission even gets under way, it’s evident that the two are in love. Once in Africa, an ASIO-sanctioned car bombing fails to kill Rusere, who blames the attempted assassination on his cousin, Mozambican President José Martinho. A subsequent sniper incident upgrades Rusere to general, and he plans a coup. He also captures the agents after their covers are blown, but Fennes and Priscilla escape, determined to make the next assassination attempt a success. Rusere’s coup seems to involve setting off devastating explosions, including a bomb at Cahora Bassa Dam, the sixth largest in the world. There are implications, however, of something bigger at play: according to rumors, Rusere has an identical twin, while either the general or Martinho has hands on a “superweapon.” Despite the title, the author’s latest offering is more spy novel than romance. The action, in fact, rarely lets up; there are endless battles with bullets and grenades, as well as chase sequences, one on surf bikes and another in the snow-covered Swiss Alps. The couple’s relationship, meanwhile, is largely effective, a reprieve from numerous characters trying to kill one another. It’s likewise amusing when, for example, the two engage in a kissing session and Priscilla soon thereafter sports an assault rifle. Fennes’ machismo can be overbearing; at one point he notes that Priscilla in peril needed “the physical shot in the arm that was a man.” The narrative, too, is occasionally verbose, like Fennes speaking into “the dashboard hands-free digital touchpad smartphone link.” But when Angliss describes scuffles, his prose soars; a highlight is Fennes and Rusere “interlocked in one another’s arms, each man punching and kicking his foe, freefalling from the aircraft.”
When the Retimer has a mission and an enemy, explosive action rapidly follows.