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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Agent X - a review

Boyd brings us the second installment in the Steve Vail suspense catalog and I sense there are many more to come. Vail, a former FBI agent keeps being pulled back into his past occupation because he appears to be the only man for the job. Having left the special agent business behind because of problems with the management wanting him to do it their way, he seems to be intrinsically linked to any case touched by Kate Bannon.

Having left the employ of the FBI, Vail has made his living as a bricklayer, and sometime sculptor in Chicago, he finds his background in counterintelligence, coupled with a master’s degree in Soviet history, invaluable to the Bureau in their latest case, brought to them by a man known as Calculus. The offer is to turn over a list of the current spies working with the ranks of government and defense contractors in the States.

Once Calculus’ cover appears blown and the spies all seem to be getting killed ahead of the FBI getting to them, Bannon and Vail have to put their on and off again relationship on hold to discover who is behind the spy threat.

When Bannon herself is framed as a spy and jailed, it is up to Vail and a fellow agent Steve Bursaw to fi nd a way to prove her innocence.

In Boyd’s introduction to this bricklayer agent, we found him to be a sole operator and to provide him with a partner in Bursaw felt off the mark just a little. It did not take away from the urgency the story told, but perhaps humanized Vail a little more than I would have liked. If Boyd really wants Vail to be serious competition with the likes of the Jack Reachers of the novel world, he should stick with his original plan.

“Agent X” advances the reputation of Boyd as an excellent spy master and this thrill-a-minute story pulls out all stops, just as Vail does.

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