PAIN KILLER by Will Staeger


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Spooky behavior in China triggers misbehavior among CIA spooks, in a mostly lively debut.

It begins tangentially—no self-respecting spy novel would begin otherwise—in a remote and relatively peaceful Caribbean island. On duty as CIA station chief is W. Cooper, a combination of Rambo and Machiavelli. Does the CIA need a clandestine operation in the British Virgin Islands? Hardly. But it’s got one, thanks to a dirty deal worked out for himself by Agent Cooper, whose commitment to extortion as a tactical device is total: the silky though blackmailable Peter Gates, CIA deputy director, a case in point. So there’s Cooper, boozing, toking, and dallying with an endless supply of willing tourist ladies when murder disturbs the Caribbean quietness. In a weak moment, Cooper agrees to help the local cops investigate. Meanwhile, back in Langley, junior analyst Julie Laramie, who after only four years with the CIA has become a reliable China hand, spots something she regards as inscrutable. She warns her bosses about a military build-up, a warning they construe as politically incorrect. Julie gets her knuckles rapped—by the self-same serpentine Peter Gates. Still, she won’t back off. Bad career move, since she’s disgraced, suspended and made mad as hell. Turns out, of course, that the Caribbean murder case Cooper is working on is linked, in labyrinthine ways, to Julie’s Chinese conspiracy. Through resources ever available to great secret agents, Cooper finds Julie, and the two partner up to save the U.S. from a variety of deadly perils. Will raffish, hunkish Cooper be bowled over—and just about redeemed—by sexy, sweet-natured Julie? You betcha. Though beaten, bloodied and hospital-bedded at end, they make it clear they’ve got a good thing going.

Conspiracy details are an occasional drag, but, that aside, the action is rapid-fire and obligatorily violent, and the Cooper-Julie pairing downright delicious. Overal, a lively debut.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-076586-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2005