Those pesky Russian spies are at it again. So is Steve Vail (The Bricklayer, 2010).
Even though his deep anti-authoritarian streak made him give up on the FBI long ago, Steve hasn’t given up on deputy assistant director Kate Bannon. Eager first to squire her to a diplomatic party she never makes it to and then to restore her reputation after what looks like her attempted suicide, he allows himself to get drawn back into the Bureau one last time (yeah, right) in the case of a Russian agent who’s code-named himself Calculus. The agent has a list of American informants who’ve been selling information to the NVR, formerly the KGB, and in the spirit of capitalist enterprise, he wants to sell the list to the FBI, one name at a time. Agreeing to follow the clues Calculus has left to the entry-level mole, Steve quickly finds that Calculus really likes to play—the trail that leads from each informant to the next seems best suited to game-show veterans and Sudoku masters—and that someone (Calculus? the NVR? a player to be named later?) has a penchant for killing each of the informants just in time for the arrival of Steve and his old Bureau friend Luke Bursaw, who’s stealing precious moments from the riddle of whether a serial killer of prostitutes has graduated to murdering a vanished FBI intelligence analyst. At length, the mind-boggling treasure hunt lands Kate in jail for treason, doomed to rot there forever unless Steve and company can somehow break her out, identify the real Agent X from among suspects in the Pentagon, the Lithuanian Chess Society and diverse defense contractors, and go after him with condign deadly force. Don’t guess what happens, because there’s no way you’ll be wrong.
A three-ring carnival of counter-espionage, game-playing and summary justice whose many beautifully choreographed action sequences will make you forget how obvious its premise is, and how absurd its details.