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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review - The Last Spymaster

I am returning to my current yen for spy novels with this book.  The author, Gayle Lynds, is a member of the U.S. Association for Intelligence Officers, and is a bestseller in a male dominated genre.  She wrote three of the books in the Covert-One series with Robert Ludlum.  She also co-founded the International Thriller Writers, Inc.  This particular novel was awarded the 2006 Novel of the Year prize from the Military Writers Society of America.

Author:  Gayle Lynds

Copyright:  2007 (St. Martin's Press) 304 pgs

Series:  Stand alone novel

Sensuality:  mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Thriller, intrigue

Main Character:  CIA Agent Elaine Cunningham

Setting:  Modern Day,Washington DC

Obtained Through:  Library

The story opens with a young skier in Switzerland being shot, then two days later the spymaster, Jay Tice, breaks out of a U.S. prison where he was held for treason.  How are the two incidents related is quite the story.

From the book:
"Charles Jay Tice was a spy's spy--a legendary figure in the CIA, and the intelligence world in general, towards the end of the Cold War. But he was also a traitor, having sold secrets that seriously compromised the U.S. for years to come. Since his conviction, he's been kept in the tightest maximum security prison under the tightest security. Until one morning, his cell is discovered empty--Tice has disappeared without even the hint of trace.

Agent Elaine Cunningham is a 'hunter', assigned to find Tice quickly, before the rest of the world knows he's gone. But she soon finds out that something is very wrong. This is more than just an impossible escape by a master spy--lurking in the shadows is a much bigger, deeper, and more dangerous conspiracy than an old spy's last run for freedom."

The viewpoint shifts between Jay on the run or Elaine chasing him.  Sometimes that can be annoying or confusing, but in this case I think it works well for creating more suspense. 

Jay remains a bit of a mystery, although the reader knows there is more to him and his story than what is initially revealed.  Elaine was an unlikely choice for hunting Jay, she is considered emotionally damaged and had been left on desk duty, seemingly forgotten, until Jay escapes.  Elaine is a solid character, not perfect in the spy world, but she has great instincts and is able to quickly assess a situation and understand the implications.  I really liked Elaine.  As the story develops a few key supporting characters are introduced who all bring something to the story.  It is hard to discuss without giving too much away.  There are a few villains, some that are visible, and one that remains a mystery until the end, which is particularly well done.

The setting is mostly in D.C. or the surrounding Virginia countryside, with a few European scenes.  The setting is used effectively, one minute serene and the next ominous. 

The overall plot is believable and builds as the story unfolds.  It utilizes many of our fears regarding terrorism and cutting edge technology to push the stakes higher and higher.  It felt realistic, not a lot of flash.  I kept thinking, it could really be like this.

The climax is a nail bitter and gets the adrenaline pumping.  The wrap up was perfect and sold me on this author.  If you like a good spy novel or a plot that takes you by surprise a time or two, give this book a try.  I am getting another of hers from the library!

Here is a teaser about the book from the author herself.


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