Dimodica (Covert Matters, 2015, etc.) crafts an intricately plotted spy game.
In 1999, Norris Stanton is a wealthy recluse and a survivor of the Nazi regime who now masterfully manipulates world currency markets. He also exploits Panama’s Colón Free Trade Zone and canal to make billions, then funnels all the profits to the Israeli Mossad. But as the official handoff of the canal from the United States to Panama approaches, Norris’ scheme is in jeopardy. He puts in a call to Tel Aviv for his marker, and the Mossad hatches a plot to destabilize Panama with a Serbian psychopath, who sets about forming a ragtag army of peasants to terrorize the country “for a taste of power, money, and a sense of belonging.” The goal is to lure the United States into an invasion to protect their ally and the all-important canal. When the CIA begins receiving reports from Panama of rape, torture, and murder by members of a new revolutionary movement, they send a “blind team” in country to do reconnaissance and report back. Dimodica, a former Special Forces and military intelligence operative, is good at setting the stage, and although the plot is complicated, it’s structured well enough to avoid confusion. However, the author’s habitual use of short, choppy paragraphs sometimes interferes with the narrative flow as the multinational narrative jumps from time zone to time zone. The pace is brisk and steady at the beginning, and again during the climax and denouement, but lags in the middle third; however, the ending is touching and satisfying. Dimodica’s characters are surprisingly well-developed for the genre and mostly portrayed sympathetically, with the exception of the monstrous Serb—but even he gets a back story revealing his motivations. Dimodica even waxes poetic at times: “Twilight is a time for artists, painters, photographers, and romantics. It is also the time of professional soldiers.” He also brings knowledge and experience to the story when depicting political machinations and explaining operational tactics, and he provides historical, cultural, and sociological context from the Oval Office to the Panamanian jungle.
A smart, layered spy thriller.