The Last Agent (Charles Jenkins #2), by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni, and. Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Showcasing his abilities outside of police procedurals, Robert Dugoni returns to add another layer to one of his wonderful standalone novels. Thrilling readers throughout this piece of espionage, Dugoni shows that he can craft sensational characters and keep the plot moving along, even behind enemy lines. After his gruelling experience in Russia, Charles Jenkins has no interest in returning. His family is priority #1 and, with a new baby, he does not want to risk upsetting his wife. So, when a CIA operative approaches him, Jenkins is not interested in the message. The Agency is still wondering about their Seven Sisters project, more specifically the Russian CIA operative who helped Jenkins while he was there. Paulina Ponomayova sacrificed her safety to ensure that Jenkins made it out and, if she is still alive, the Agency wants to know about it. Jenkins gives this some thought, wondering if he might be able to extract Paulina and save her as she did for him. A long chat with his wife leads them to understand the need for one final sacrifice. As Jenkins is placed in the region, he will have to make his way on Russian soil and work his magic. Keen to show off his skills, Jenkins boldly enters the country and drops numerous breadcrumbs regarding his presence, which raises many red flags with the FSB, Russia’s Security Agency. As Jenkins seeks to lure them to what he is doing, he touches base with Viktor Federov, the FSB agent whose failure to apprehend Jenkins the first time left him in major trouble. While Federov is leery at first, he soon realises that Jenkins is seeking to redeem them both for troubles their respective countries placed at their feet. They devise a plan to locate Paulina and try to get her out of the country as quickly as possible. After making contact and playing a little sleight of hand, the mission to leave the country begins. This is surely more difficult, as the FSB are everywhere and Jenkins has made himself persona non grata already, particularly to Adam Efimov, who is tasked with locating Jenkins and bringing him in. As Jenkins, Federov, and Ponomavova try to flee Moscow, it will be a fight to the end to get to safety. With the Russian winter upon them, any misstep could cost them their lives in the cold, even before Efimov puts bullet lodges into their skulls. A chilling spy thriller that I had not expected from Robert Dugoni. This is one novel sure to receive much attention for the foreseeable future. Recommended to those who enjoy Dugoni’s work, as well as the reader who finds modern espionage to their liking.

I have been a fan of Robert Dugoni’s work for a while, which usually focuses on legal or police matters. However, this novel has all the elements of a new genre for the author, something he seems to have mastered as well. The attention to detail is evident throughout and the reader is sure to feel as though they are right there, with the ever-developing plot. Charles Jenkins takes centre stage again, though he is slightly more reticent to toss himself into the middle of a dangerous situation. Burnt by his own government, Jenkins wants nothing to do with helping the Agency, but as soon as Paulina Ponomayova‘s name comes up, he knows that he must help. The reader can see some of the emotional connections Jenkins has made in this second novel, though he remains highly work-focussed for much of the book. There is some character development, surely, but the intricate details of his plan hatching steal much of the limelight in this piece. Jenkins does a formidable job, even when faced with adversity, keeping the story moving throughout. A handful of great secondary characters help depict the clash, particularly within Russia. Dugoni’s detail when forming these characters works so well and the reality of the situation becomes apparent throughout, which serves to permit the reader to feel a part of the action. One cannot read this book and not feel that Adam Efimov played a key antagonist role, depicting both the traditional Russian and one whose new connections with the current regime have helped him climb the proverbial ladder. The story began strong and kept getting better. I cannot say enough about Dugoni’s ability to cobble together something so air-tight and yet not forget to inject some needed humour throughout. A modern Cold War thriller for sure, which had the elements of reality sewn into its plot. Using great dialogue and multiple languages kept the reader feeling as though they were standing beside the characters and living each moment. True, I must rely on Dugoni to have used proper lingo and phraseology, but I will leave linguistic nitpicking to others, as I surely felt this added a wonderful flavour to the overall piece. While I do love the Tracy Crosswhite series, this was a wonderful break and shows me that Robert Dugoni’s versatility is surely something to earn him an even larger fan base. Plus, the cliffhanger ending leaves things open for a trilogy, should everyone want to play along.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for another wonderful book. You never cease to impress and I cannot wait to see what else you have up your sleeve.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: