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A plot hatched by Iranian Intelligence to destroy U.S. oil reserves, assassinate key Saudis, and overthrow the Saudi King takes on a life of its own in this multifaceted spy thriller.

There are no good guys in the spy game. Certainly not in Knowles’ debut novel where no one can be trusted. Whatever side, whether agent, terrorist, soldier, or politician—all are in it solely for money, personal gain, or revenge. It starts when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi agrees to an idea, seeing it as a possible way to rid himself of the plan’s proponent, General Hashemi, head of Iranian Intelligence Service—a man hated seemingly by everyone in Iran. For the plot to work, the assassination must be pinned on the CIA. Enter Gordon Draper, a disgruntled CIA employee who agrees to assemble the hit team from mercenaries previously employed by the agency. The hope is blame will fall on the boss who demoted him. In due course, jihadists succeed in blowing up and contaminating oil pumping stations in Texas and Louisiana; various people are used, double-crossed, or disposed of; CIA operative Bill Barone and Mossad’s Washington Chief of Station Ben Zev are deployed to investigate the unauthorized hit squad; and a plethora of screw-ups, betrayals, and payoffs somehow continue to breathe life into the scheme long after it should have expired. Knowles’ serpentine plotline makes for solid spy suspense laced with dark humor and cynicism. The book is a page-turner despite containing nearly as many typos and grammatical snafus as plot twists, some as obvious as shifting from third person to first person in the course of a single paragraph: “Bill Barone had been married to a girl named Margo. While we were dating, everything was better than perfect.”  In the end, however, the sheer power of Knowles’ intricate narrative, faultless characterizations, and snide wit carry the day.

This insufficiently edited but smart, current, and intricate tale of espionage will appeal to fans of John le Carré, John Altman, and Phillip Kerr.

Page count: 295pp
Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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