MI6 agent Michael Vaux returns to track down a security breach in Lebanon in Croft’s (The Maghreb Conspiracy, 2014, etc.) thriller.
When British intelligence assets go missing or turn up dead in Beirut, an MI6 subgroup, Department B3, turns to semiretired Vaux for a secret freelance assignment. Specifically, they ask him to find the person who’s been leaking key information. However, Anthony Mansfield, MI6’s head of station in Beirut, quickly becomes aware of Vaux’s operation, and he’s unhappy with what he sees as B3’s “interference.” Mansfield sends his own agent to keep an eye on Vaux, who, in turn, makes contact with Chris Greene, B3’s man in Beirut. Vaux also acquires his own asset—a student at the American university—but his investigation hasn’t gone far when he and Greene stumble upon a new body. Vaux further deduces that the killers may also be engineering a frame-up. Things get even more problematic when Greene mysteriously vanishes and Vaux receives a ransom note. The agent, with help from Sgt. Pitt of the British Embassy and others, quickly plans a rescue mission. As the murders continue, Vaux devises a way to trap the mole before anyone else dies. Croft incorporates a suitable amount of tension into his plot. This is largely accomplished by the historical setting, as it takes place in 2010 and includes the real-life Israel-Lebanon border clash. This event unnerves the already anxious Mansfield and acts as a constant reminder of the potential for violence. But the novel gets the most mileage from its down-to-earth qualities: Vaux may be a professional spy, but he still has to borrow Greene’s Sig Sauer—and when Greene wants that returned, Vaux is forced to borrow someone else’s weapon. The self-aware Mansfield also provides plenty of wry humor; he’s a fan of spy fiction and contemplates adopting the jargon of his CIA counterpart, Alex Mailer (such as the term “dangle” for a double agent). The reveal at the end is satisfying, though somewhat predictable.
An espionage tale with believable characters that draw readers into the action.