A fast-moving noir spy thriller featuring a hard-ass protagonist who’s great with a gun.
James Hicks works for a secret spy organization called the University, which has positions such as Dean and Department Chair. Not the most likable of heroes, Faculty Member Hicks specializes in exploiting people’s weaknesses to turn them into Assets: “Hooking a new Asset always made his day.” One night in the midst of a “Snowmageddon” in New York City, he meets an Asset named Colin in Central Park and winds up in a shootout. Colin and two of the ambushers are killed, leaving a snowy scene that “would’ve been postcard perfect if it hadn’t been for the three dead men at [Hicks’] feet.” Now Hicks must learn why Colin had called the urgent meeting and who got the drop on them. The University’s OMNI computer system can do almost anything, so it may be able to identify the attackers. Hicks is relentless and largely devoid of emotion except for anger. “This is bigger than you think it is, man,” states a bad guy who claims other bad guys will soon rescue him from Hicks’ clutches. The unfazed Hicks replies in tough-guy fashion: “Anyone shoots at me, you get it in the back. Because that’s the American way.” The danger is dire indeed, involving a biological threat that can infect the entire world. An experienced crime writer, the author proffers passable pulp that moves quickly and would make a good set of comic books. In this novel’s one-dimensional universe, Hicks hasn’t a lick more depth than absolutely necessary, and there is but a passing acknowledgment that women even exist.
Not one of the genre’s great yarns, but it’s still a fun read for fans of classic espionage.