Dark Spies
A Spycatcher novel by Matthew Dunn
Book review by Jules Brenner
Harper, released 4/28/15 (paperback), 464 pp., $9.99
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In the latest Spycatcher thriller by Dunn, a series which pits a lead U.S. operative against the worst masterminds threatening western democracy, he's ordered to do something against all his instincts and training; something he doesn't understand and has great difficulty accepting.

On a joint operation in Norway to protect agents of the CIA and the UK's MI6, Will Cochrane, FBI assassin/field operative, has a man in the sights of his rifle who is one of the worst demons of Islamic terrorism he's ever encountered, code-named Antaeus. But, seeing this man comes as a chilling shock since he thought he had killed the Russian spymaster three years ago with a bomb in a car. How could this monster have escaped the blast -- which Will had watched!? And why are his Langley superiors telling him to stand down from finishing the job now?

The order is unambiguous: "Antaeus must not be touched! Further inquiries require Project Ferryman clearance."

Secrecy within secrecy; circles within circles. And, the agency's most effective executioner of terrorist leaders is out of the loop. Now, all he can do is watch through his scope and witness the execution of those he was there to protect. It's a dishonor to the fabric of his being.

That must change. He must penetrate Ferryman and find out who it is, what it's up to, and do something about it. But it's no walk in the park. Will is up against ferocious Russian assassins and an FBI team that seems to be marching to the orders of his own superiors. But, for him, there's no option. If Antaeus is alive, an international disaster is imminent.

When he forms a shaky alliance with fellow operative Ellie Hallowes and she's attacked by a Russian team, he's again ordered to stand aside. This time, however, his growing recognition of Ellie's depth and compassion, who shares his concerns about the perplexing orders coming out of the agency, makes him align with her and choose the other option, causing the CIA to brand him as a rogue. They put the word out and go on the warpath to take him off the grid -- multiplying the complications and the betrayals.

As Antaeus' plans take shape, presenting the possibility of catastrophic destruction in the U.S., Will, besides becoming aware of the existence of a Russian mole at the agency who is cancelling his ability to gain traction against his enemies and bring out the truth, begins to see the purpose and strategy of "Operation Ferryman," a man and a plan designed to manipulate Russian intelligence to kill Cobalt, code name of a man who finances terrorist groups. The element of global politics is calling shots.

Once again in genre literature, the author keeps the tension going by allowing the villain to know everything about the good guys but not the other way around. Here, Antaeus has a mole set up and spy gadgets everywhere in order to remain a step ahead of his targets at all times. Will is decidedly outmatched and outmaneuvered, which is designed to show what he can do against such odds.

The intrigue created by this uneven game of wits, conspiracy and vengeance is as deadly as it is complex, but it makes for a broad field of action and a sympathetic hero for the high paced action and suspense. It isn't Jason Bourne but I wouldn't be surprised if Ludlum's FBI rogue was in Dunn's mind as he wrote this.

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