Most helpful critical review
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Better than the last book; not as good as earlier ones ... 3 ½ stars
on February 8, 2014
I started this series with the first entry, "The Faithful Spy", and have read each new entry as soon as released (in fact, some even earlier, with advance reviewer copies through the Vine program, such as this book).
I welcomed Berenson as a talented new voice in the genre, and thoroughly enjoyed each of his books, right up until last year's release, "The Night Ranger", which I considered a major misstep (you can read my entire review of that book there).
With this new entry, Berenson returns protagonist John Wells back to what he does best - international espionage dealing with events of major cataclysmic potential - but somehow, some of the mojo seems to be gone.
The plot centers on a shadowy operative who goes by the nom du guerre of Salome. At the behest of her mysterious masters she's acquired a chunk of weapons-grade enriched uranium, and recruited a cadre of minions to put her plan into action, that plan being to sow international discord and panicked response to the threat of nuclear blackmail supposedly being enacted by Iran.
Wells, now in retirement and living with his girlfriend, is recruited into action by his old boss and friend Ellis Schaeffer to delve into the threat, try to verify or debunk it, and then deal with the people behind it. Wells follows the clues to where they lead him around the world as the body count ratchets up.
All well and good as far as it goes, but the tension just never seems to ratchet up to match the scale of the threat. A matter of pacing, and lack of focus, in my opinion.
There's the leisurely "now you see it, now you don't" issue of Wells's disintegrating relationship with his girlfriend. It pops up at the oddest moments for a paragraph or two, then vanishes again.
Wells's old professional nemesis, Vinny Duto, is now a US Senator, but is somehow still actively involved in running Schaeffer and Wells on this mission, in spite of the fact that he no longer has any standing in the CIA. I found it unbelievable and, frankly, awkward.
The plot isn't resolved at the end of the book, at least as far as Salome is concerned. Obviously, there's a Part 2 coming to this plot line. So the emotional payoff to the story's conclusion isn't really there. This may contribute to the pacing problem of the story: Berenson knew he was writing a two-parter, and so had to either compress his (apparently) byzantine plot line to fit into one book, or stretch things out enough to allow the story to fill two entire books. Pure speculation on my part, but it would answer the question.
Anyway, not as good as his seminal works, but not as bad as the last book. 3 ½ stars. Entertaining, but could have been better.