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Agent X (Steve Vail Novels) Mass Market Paperback – July 26, 2011

135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Noah Boyd on How to Catch a Serial Killer

Mystery Readers,

Thought you might like to hear about my last case with the FBI.

The first three bodies were found in the abandoned Monterey Motel in Highland Park, a small, once affluent city surrounded by Detroit. But the public concern didn’t reach full pitch until the count reached eight, all the victims raped and strangled. That’s when I was called in.

My first impulse when tackling any problem is looking for a way to slice through the Gordian knot, a shortcut seeker’s most reliable tool. What I had learned by working on the Green River Murders and studying other serial killings was to search for a surviving victim; it’s how Gary Ridgeway and Ted Bundy had both been caught.

The first thing I asked for at the Highland Park PD was any tips that had been called in—a technique I had learned during my three months in Seattle. After an exchange of confused looks, one of the detectives said that he thought they were in the third floor (long-abandoned) bathroom. Inside a twisted, dusty filing cabinet, I found about a hundred of them.

One had been called in by a woman who had been raped and then severely choked by a man she knew only as “Tony” before she escaped by running down a busy street naked in the middle of the winter. The assault had taken place in the basement of an abandoned Howard Johnson’s restaurant, which was immediately adjacent to the Monterey Motel. Being an investigator of keen insight, it occurred to me that Tony was somebody we needed to find.

It being Detroit, the woman had used an alias to report the crime and “Tony” would turn out to be a nickname without a single etymological connection to the killer’s true identity. These—let’s call them—big city idiosyncrasies, caused a two-month delay before we were able to arrest Benjamin Atkins and obtain a confession to 11th homicides, along with a planned 12th to celebrate his birthday in two weeks.

--Noah Boyd

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Steve Vail, once an ace FBI agent, now a bricklayer (The Bricklayer, 2009), arrives in Washington to take Kate Bannon, the bureau’s assistant director, to an embassy soiree. But his romantic mission is sidelined by an urgent summons from the bureau: a Russian embassy staffer, code-named Calculus, is offering to name Americans feeding sensitive information to Russian intelligence. But no sooner than the bureau accepts the Russian’s terms, he is spirited off to Moscow, presumably to be tortured into admitting what he has done. Steve and Kate must identify the moles and reel them in before the Russians snuff them. But before that can happen, Vail must solve the many puzzles that Calculus uses to conceal information. Thriller fans get an endlessly twisting plot strewn with chases, gun battles, and explosions. Calculus’ puzzles are engaging, and the bureau’s procedural and bureaucratic thickets sound real. Cynics will enjoy the portrayal of all FBI administrators as butt-covering careerists, but Vail, equal parts Sherlock Holmes and Dirty Harry, strains credulity. Not as strong as The Bricklayer, but fans won’t want to give up on the series yet. --Thomas Gaughan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Steve Vail Novels (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061827037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061827037
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Noah Boyd is a former FBI agent who spent more than twenty years working on some of the Bureau's toughest investigations, including the Green River Killer case and the Highland Park Strangler case (which he's credited with solving). He currently works on cold cases when he's not writing. He lives in New England.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Kay VINE VOICE on January 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Agent X might have the perfect thriller combination of enough action to keep you up late reading when you should be asleep without being scary enough to keep you awake at night. Reading it is like watching an action movie where the good guys pull off completely unrealistic stunts without getting themselves shot or blown up and you know it's not real but you love it anyway.

That's a long-winded way of saying this is not an FBI procedural mystery. You have to suspend your sense of disbelief to fully enjoy this book. You'll miss all the fun if you fuss about whether anyone could figure out the clues that fast or escape unharmed from the ambush.

This is the second novel featuring The Bricklayer Steve Vail. This book starts not long after the end of the first book, but the story stands alone so it isn't absolutely necessary to have read the first book before reading this one. I enjoyed the first one too and think you'll want to read it if you haven't already.
Vail is a former FBI agent turned bricklayer. It wasn't repeated in this book but he had been fired for insubordination before the events of the first book. He hates management and likes to do things his own way without interference. This book gets a little deeper into his psyche than the first one, but it's still more about the action than the emotions.

The first book had a lot of physical action and this one, though it has plenty of action, is more about following clues and more teamwork with Bannon and another of Vail`s friends from his FBI days. I thought the book was more interesting with different personalities and relationships for Vail to bounce off and not just do the solo cowboy thing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bobbewig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In Agent X, the follow up to Boyd's The Bricklayer, superhero Steve Vail is once again called on to save the day when no one else can. Without going into specifics about the plot, Agent X has Vail and his partner-in-crimesolving, FBI AD Kate Bannon, hunting down a sly and lethal Russian spy.

The book's plot will keep you turning the pages at a fast pace, as the story is loaded with action. If action and plot twists are of primary interest to you, you'll probably enjoy Agent X a lot. However, if strong character development and a plot that is highly realistic are of at least equal importance, than you're probably going to find Agent X to be somewhat disappointing. I consider myself in this latter camp. While I enjoyed much of the action, I often found the book went too far in terms of straining my sense of credulity. Similarly, while the characters are serviceable, they are not very "real" people; and the dialogue Boyd has them speak, particularly regarding the bantering between Vail and Bannon, is a bit pedestrian.

Overall, for me, Agent X is a mixed bag of good elements and not so good elements. As such, while I didn't dislike Agent X, I didn't like it enough to recommend highly.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous VINE VOICE on January 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Got this on Monday afternoon and was finished on Tuesday afternoon! Mr. Boyd does a great job of creating all this suspense and connecting a plot line that keeps nagging at you, what's going to happen next? I have to keep reading! I wouldn't say any new ground was broken with this novel but the writing and story are solid making for a very entertaining read. The characters are all smart, there is witty dialogue and the story itself moves along at a quick pace. The only beef that I have with this story/series is that I think the Steve Vale character needs a prequel; there are so many references to him walking away from the FBI I am constantly wondering why, what's the back story? Having also read Mr. Boyd's first novel, The Bricklayer, I can see that he is developing as a writer and I think any future novels can only get better! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a crime drama that focuses on puzzling out the clues, enjoys a little witty banter between characters or just likes a well-told story.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ArchEtech on March 9, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Steve Vail is the next Jack Reacher. I say that only because I've been searching for another series with a similar character and writing style as Lee Child's Jack Reacher Books as I've read all of them. This book series has the same lone wolf type of character who with smarts and brute force does whatever he has to do, to do the right thing. Even if that means breaking some rules!

The plot is on par with the more complicated and witty of the Reacher series but definitely with a style and story line of characters all it's own. If you read the series of books by Lee Child, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, AJ Tada etc, you will love this series. Start with the Bricklayer...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Semler on March 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Let me preface this review by saying I am an avid reader, a huge fan of action/mystery/suspense books, and generally give things/people the benefit of the doubt. All that being said, this book was AWFUL, worst book I have read in years, and I am actually annoyed at the hours I lost reading it. I was shocked at all the positive reviews on here because the entire time I was reading, I would actually debate whether I should keep reading or cut my losses. I should have chosen the latter.

The first chapter was interesting and mysterious and set the scene for what I thought was going to be a story with a strong female character who teamed with a strong male character. By the end of chapter 2/3, my initial impression was turned on its head. Kate became an awestruck bystander to the big strong Steve (sorry, I can't even remember his name now; I've been actively trying to forget this read). He had ALL of the answers to the most out there puzzles...unrealistically so and much like Horatio on CSI Miami and Dinofrio on Law and Order CI, which is why I don't watch either show. Meanwhile, Kate would be there by his side so he could save her life when they came under gunfire. And they had this constant relationship tension that was so awful it was the first time I remember rooting AGAINST the two main characters getting together.

And did I mention that "Steve" had such a disdain for authority and protocol that his level of rebellion actually became quite annoying. We "got it" right away and didn't need a constant reminder.

Weak female character aside, the story itself went on and on and on, one death-defying scenarion after another, to the point where it became completey uninteresting. I think I skimmed the last 20 pages and didn't even care how it ended.
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