Friday, July 16, 2010

"Moscow Sting" by Alex Dryden 3 1/2 stars

This is the sequel to "Red to Black," which I had not read. You don't need to have read the first book to understand this one, but reading Moscow Sting likely will spoil the events of Red to Black. (For that matter, reading the plot summary of the second book probably spoils the first one.)

Anna is a former KGB colonel who defected to marry the British spy she was assigned to monitor. Her husband was killed by the KGB before the opening of the book and she is in hiding with her young son. The British, Americans and Russians all want her because they believe she is the only one who knows the identity of "Mikhail," who provided her late husband with Russian intelligence. An American private intelligence company gets to her first and a significant portion of the book involves the process of working her to disclose his identity and contact him to make him an American intelligence asset.

This book was OK for me but it didn't have the suspenseful tension that makes for a truly compelling espionage novel. The author has filled it with a lot of information about the politics of the spy business -- the use of private intelligence companies, the KGB's control of Russian business enterprises, political "horse trading" between the countries. But he tells it to the reader in a way that makes it just so many facts. (I'm assuming he has done the research to make it accurate.) Another thing that made the book less exciting is that it felt fairly believable. The Americans holding Anna didn't torture or drug her to get the information -- they interviewed her. Endlessly. And, with one exception, there aren't gun battles or wild chase scenes.

Believable action scenes that would be too tame for the typical blockbuster spy movie need something more to draw the reader in -- an emotional tie to the character. This book has so many different characters and points of view that it is difficult to get emotionally involved with any of them. Anna is the obvious center of the book but the author puts in too much extra stuff -- a subplot involving an assassin named Lars was an unnecessary distraction from the central story -- and the connection with Anna suffers.

Finally, some of the details make little sense in the context of the story. Anna's handler suggests she take a gun to a meeting where she will be otherwise unprotected. Of all the handgun possibilities, she improbably requests a single shot pistol with a very long barrel to hide under her clothes. And unless this is covered in the earlier book, Anna is much more familiar with New York City than she should be.

Fans of the espionage genre who like a lot of information in the story and don't need page-turning action should enjoy this book. For me, I wanted action or emotional connection to the characters and didn't feel either one.

I received this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for writing a review.  My opinions are my own.

No comments:

Post a Comment