Monday, May 15, 2006

Book 32: The Last Spymaster

Jay Tice is a spymaster.  To say that he was a perfect spy would be to overstate his skill, but he was one of the best.  He could run any operation and work with anyone and produce amazing results.  He was skilled at going undercover and off the grid and getting the job done.  He was one of America's best spies...until he betrayed his country, was arrested, and was placed in a prison that makes maximum security look weak.  Except for the massive amount of distrust in the intelligence community after the Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA (Tice) turned out to be a spy, things were as good as they could be.  The bad guy was behind bars.  Until he walked out of prison unseen. 
Elaine Cunningham is a hunter.  Her job for the CIA is to find people who don't want to be found.  She's good.  Not the best, but very good.  She is viewed as unreliable because a person tragedy years before had changed how she worked.  With the best hunters in the CIA already out on other jobs, Cunningham is assigned the case to find Tice.  She has 48 hours or the search will fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI and Tice's escape becomes public knowledge.  It would then be one more failure of the CIA and Intelligence in a post 9/11 world. 
What I expected from this novel and what I got are two different things.  I am familiar with the work of Gayle Lynds and have read all but one of her solo novels (she has written a couple with Robert Ludlum). I expected 300-400 pages of fast paced search with a cat and mouse game between Tice and Cunningham.  The Last Spymaster is quite a bit different, though there are hints of my expectation early on.   To say what this novel is truly about would more than ruin the surprise and would rob some of the pleasure of reading the novel.  Gayle Lynds writes fast paced espionage fiction.  I shudder to use cliches like "a roller coaster ride" or "break neck speed", but The Last Spymaster reads with a very fast pace.  Lynds gives the reader more than enough to get involved with the characters and be interested in figuring out where she is going with the novel, but she briskly moves the story and plot along.  It works.  I was more than impressed by The Coil and enjoyed The Last Spymaster just as much.  Lynds is not bogged down with the minutia of spy work as you get in the early LeCarre, but she gives a good modern day take on espionage and what it might look like and what the stakes are now.  The Cold War spy novel has been done to death and I think that the Post-Cold War spy novel is only just being explored in regards to what sort of story can and will be told.  Now adding a Post 9/11 reality, Lynds is able to give the reader a fun ride where the stakes are life and death and very high for the country.  The details given by Lynds feel just right and we are not weighted down with a LeCarre or Clancy level of detail. 
Bottom line: Good stuff.  I always enjoy reading Gayle Lynds. 

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