The Last Agent reunites us with Charles Jenkins, acquitted of espionage in the previous book The Eighth Sister, who has put the events of that book behind him and rebuilt his life. Or so he thinks.
A CIA agent shows up on his doorstep – again. After being rebuffed at Jenkins’ house, the agent corrals him at the local diner and tells him the agency needs him once more. For real, this time. They believe that Paulina Ponomayova, who saved Jenkins’ life in The Eighth Sister by giving her own, is not actually dead, but is being held in one of the toughest prisons in Russia. They’re not sure she’s there, or what information she may have given up on the other Sisters. They are sure that they want Jenkins to return to Russia, free her from the prison, and get her out of the country.
I wondered at this point just how long the author was going to push a 6′ 5″, 65 year old black man into a country where a) he sticks out like a 6′ 5″, 65 year old black man would in a rather overwhelmingly white country, and b) he’s already been there, is known to the FSB (the KGB’s successor), and has previously created havoc there.
Jenkins isn’t sure he wants to go, is definitely sure his wife and kids won’t want him to go, but does feel that he owes Paulina to help her if he can. Of course he signs on, and once again, he’s off to Mother Russia.
Viktor Federov is back (and on a side note, I would love to have a couple of books about THAT guy), retired now from the FSB thanks to his inability to catch Jenkins in The Eighth Sister. Jenkins blackmails him into assisting, first with figuring out a way to get Paulina out of the prison, and then getting all of them away safely.
I won’t spoil any of that except to say that the bank scene was quite funny, and one of the nonverbal discussions with Paulina is rather ingenious, relying on knowledge of where the cameras are and where the guards will be.
The chase that ensues – three targets instead of one – is now lead by a prototypical old KGB-style chief, who constantly silences his underlings, ignores the supposed lead investigator’s advice, but tells him failure will be on his head. When that investigator suddenly “retires” to take care of his father, it’s all out pursuit, by land, water, and even by air into another country’s airspace.
It’s a fun book, and better than The Eighth Sister, although readers will still have to up their suspension of disbelief game.
A solid four stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the reading copy.