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The Russian Endgame by Allan Topol

The Russian Endgame” is the last of a trilogy in the “Craig Page Thriller” series by Topol.  It’s very much in the tradition of Ludlum and Clancy as a nail-biter of a spy thriller.

Topol doesn’t mince words.  His style is direct and description is sparse, but effective in getting across the fact that post-Cold War East-West relations are still pretty frigid.  In this Endgame chapter the EU Director of Counterterrorism Agency, Craig Page, is invited back to the CIA as its director by the new president following the assassination of the previous president.  Page tried unsuccessfully to get his predecessor at the CIA to act on a strong tip that a former Russian KGB agent was headed for the US to undertake some major act of terrorism.  As a result, that spy, Orlov, acting on behalf of both Chinese and Russian presidents, managed to recruit a Pakistani sleeper to carry out an assassination of the US president.  I won’t reveal more of the plot than this, although there are plenty more chilling episodes in the book– more than enough to keep the interest of those who like a good spy thriller.

For the most part the plot seems plausible, and very chilling at that. “The Russian Endgame” makes it very clear that in the amoral world of espionage there is more dis-information generated than truthful accounting of what is going on in foreign affairs today.  The recent revelations of phone taps on the major leaders of the world is no doubt  just the tip of the iceberg.

Spy thriller enthusiasts will have a hard time putting “The Russian Endgame” down.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

 

 

 

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Rasputin’s Shadow by Raymond Khoury

A review of Khoury’s “Rasputin’s Shadow” in this week before Halloween is very appropriate.  The book goes back and forth between early 20th century Russia and modern day New York City.  Khoury invents a relationship for the ghoulish real-life figure, Grigory Rasputin, with a scientist side-kick who has invented a mysterious machine that can affect humans in many ways.  The descriptions of Rasputin and his relationship with the Tsar and Tsarina are historically accurate, but the scientist and his invention are figments of Khoury’s active imagination.

The other story line takes place in modern day New York where FBI agent, Sean Reilly, and his Russian FSB counter-part, Larisa Tchoumitcheva, investigate the death of a Russian embassy operative and the disappearance of a Russian emigre and his wife.  The missing man, a retired science teacher from Queens, secretly built a version of his grandfather’s mystery machine from the journals the older man left.  It has the potential for mind-control of humans and turning them into indiscriminate killers and, essentially, zombies using different microwave frequencies.  Of course, both U.S. and Russian agents want this machine.  One rogue Russian KGB agent kidnaps the hapless inventor and his wife and tests the machine on crowds in New York and Washington, DC before Reilly and Tchoumitcheva eventually catch up with him.

The invention and its effects are a little hard to swallow, but evidently there is “psychotronic” research going on currently which may make this weird machine not so far-fetched.

Rasputin’s Shadow” is a good, absorbing thriller, if a little implausible.

Liz Nichols

 

 

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“Complex 90” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Complex 90” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins is due to be released May 7.  Collins was designated by the Spillane estate to finish several novels Spillane had in the hopper when he died.  Collins has stayed true to the hard-bitten Spillane style in this Mike Hammer novel.  This is not a detective novel so much as an espionage thriller.

The setting is 1964 Russia where Hammer, who secretly has a side gig as a black ops agent for the U.S. government, has accompanied a Senator on an international mission.  When he gets involved in a plea by their Russian translator to defect Hammer is detained by the KGB and thrown into a Russian prison.  He manages to escape at the expense of the lives of 45 Russians who try to stop him.  Some American officials are ready to disavow Hammer and send him back to Russia to answer for the deaths during his escape all in the name of detente.  What may keep him out of the hands of the Soviets is if he can identify the whereabouts of some major Soviet spies then the U.S. will have the trading power to keep Hammer out of Soviet hands and to bring home a few other detainees in Soviet prisons.  Hammer walks into the middle of a conspiracy to sell space technology secrets that nearly gets him killed.

Complex 90” is a bit dated in the sense that this is clearly a Cold War novel completed long after the Cold War has ended.  Still, there is no question that espionage still goes on between East and West.  Hammer is still his macho-man self in this thriller, but now instead of viewing women just as sex objects he seems to hold women who are beautiful, smart and accomplished in high regard.  One of those beautiful women is almost Hammer’s undoing. He also works with a black Army MP who is also held in high regard and becomes a real hero in this story.  These are modernizations of the Hammer character that I think Max Collins may have included.

Hammer fans will be glad to see him back in the skillful hands of Max Allan Collins.

Written from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

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