A pretty good thriller in an informative historical setting.

RED TRAITOR

A fictionalized account of the Cuban missile crisis from the Soviet perspective.

Fresh from a triumphant case involving a Soviet nuclear superbomb, Alexander Vasin of the Special Cases directorate of the KGB is attempting to catch a high-level spy. Oleg Morozov of the GRU is believed to be passing secrets to the Americans, but all Vasin’s efforts to uncover the traitor have so far yielded nothing. Vasin feels a particular urgency to succeed because his own boss, Gen. Orlov, is locked in mortal bureaucratic combat with Morozov’s boss, Gen. Serov. As Vasin pursues his quarry, he uncovers evidence that the Politburo has authorized the shipment and installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba. In a separate plot development, a flotilla of four Soviet submarines, each one carrying a single nuclear torpedo in addition to its conventional torpedoes, is deployed toward Cuba. As Vasin uncovers more and more of this unsettling situation, he comes to believe that the American government needs to be informed, and he begins to try to use Morozov as a conduit. The discovery of the missiles in Cuba precipitates a diplomatic crisis, but cooler heads eventually prevail over the hawkish Soviet faction. The submarines, however, present another threat. Submerged and beyond communication, they do not require confirmatory orders to use their weapons, and when the U.S. “quarantine” corrals them, the possibility of a nuclear exchange looms. Matthews has done solid historical research—in many cases his characters bear the names of the actual participants—and the fictionalization is deft, but his need to represent all the moving parts detracts from the effect of the whole. Though the matter is momentous, less might have been more.

A pretty good thriller in an informative historical setting.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54342-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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It may be time for Silva's hero to retire from the field and let his protégés take over.

THE NEW GIRL

Gabriel Allon partners with a dubious ally in the Middle East.

When a 12-year-old is abducted from an exclusive private school in Geneva, Allon, head of Israeli intelligence, is among the first to know. The girl’s father is Khalid bin Mohammed, heir to the Saudi throne, and he wants Allon’s help. KBM was once feted as a reformer, ready to bring new industries and new freedoms to his country. When he makes his appeal to Allon, though, KBM is the prime suspect in the murder of a journalist. If KBM immediately makes you think of MBS, you are correct. Silva mentions Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s real-life heir apparent, in a foreword. But anyone who recognizes KBM as a fictional echo of MBS might find this book to be more old news than fresh entertainment. In his last few novels, Silva has turned his attention to current world affairs, such as the rise of the new Russia and the threats of global terrorism. In novels like The Other Woman (2018) and House of Spies (2017), the author was inventive enough that these works felt compelling and original. And, in The Black Widow (2016), Silva wrote much of the story from the point of view of the French-born Israeli doctor Allon recruited for an undercover mission while also expanding the roles of a few familiar secondary characters. Allon is a wonderful creation. In the first several novels in this series, he posed as an art restorer while working for Israel’s intelligence service. He adopted a variety of personas and gave readers access to people and places few of us will ever see. Now that he’s a public figure who can no longer invent alter egos, his world is smaller and less fascinating. The pacing here is slow, and any sense of urgency is undercut by the matter of what’s at stake. Ultimately, this is a narrative about removing one horrible Saudi ruler in order to reinstate a less horrible Saudi ruler. This might be solid realpolitik, but it’s not terribly compelling fiction.

It may be time for Silva's hero to retire from the field and let his protégés take over.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283483-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Not for the squeamish but a jolt for thriller junkies.

RELENTLESS

The 10th installment in the Gray Man series begins with a dent in the hero’s armor and revs up with nonstop action.

Court Gentry, aka the Gray Man, is recovering from a stab wound, and he really needs to get some rest. He’s tired and badly weakened, not yet fit for operational duty, but the CIA’s off-the-books contract killer is “wholly unaccustomed to free time.” Soon he’s in Caracas, trying to spring his comrade in arms Zack Hightower from a Venezuelan prison. Then he’s off to Germany to deal with a possible coordinated attack on Americans in Berlin. Gentry, whose CIA code name is Violator, is that rare killer with a heart, so he takes only “righteous and worthy” assignments and does them right. His CIA boss congratulates him on one assassination, saying “You put a warhead on his forehead.” Gentry’s in love with Zoya Zakharova, a field operative also working for the CIA, but gunning down bad guys keeps both too busy for a meaningful relationship. Meanwhile, a sultan in the United Arab Emirates can hardly wait for his father to die of cancer, and an Iranian Quds sleeper agent plots mayhem in Berlin. Evildoers abound in this bloody thriller, including Americans. But the star of the scum is Maksim Akulov, who works for the Russian Mafia and whose target is Zakharova. Think of Akulov as the Gray Man without the moral compass. The title aptly fits the plot, as the hero scarcely takes a breather. There’s enough bloodshed to pour into two thrillers, and author Greaney doesn’t spare the good guys. Gentry’s body is “racked with pain and exhaustion” much of the time, but he is relentless. And Zack gets more than scratched while he thinks that “fighting a robot attack would be one badass way to go.”

Not for the squeamish but a jolt for thriller junkies.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-09895-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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