The Silent Sisters (Charles Jenkins #3), by Robert Dugoni

Eight 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.

Long a fan of Robert Dugoni and his work, I turned to the latest instalment of his espionage series. Reviving all that was tense during the Cold War, Dugoni has fashioned a wonderful series around sleeper agents and one American’s duty to protect those involved. Still smarting from his latest Russian prison break, Charles Jenkins is enjoying life with his family. That is, until he’s approached by his CIA handler to return to Russia on a mission. It will be harrowing and dangerous, but necessary to ensure American intel is not lost. As Jenkins makes his way there, people are still hunting for him and will stop at nothing to see him dead. Dugoni does well spinning this tale of depravity and ruthlessness, but it’s all for the greater good!

Still feeling the aches and pains of a Russian prison, Charles Jenkins is happy to be with his family on their farm in the States. All that changes when, during a routine meeting with his CIA handler, Jenkins is told that he will need to help extricate the last of a sleeper cell that is being hunted by the Russian authorities. These women, deemed the Seven Sisters, have been providing America with wonderful intel, but there is a (wo)manhunt for them and the consequences are dire.

With only two left in the country, Jenkins will have to hunt them down and ensure they are safe, before trying to get them stateside for added protection. The trouble is, Jenkins is also a fugitive from the Russian authorities and they are on the hunt for him, sure to skin him alive when he is caught. It’s a precarious balance, but surely one that is needed to keep America safe from its renewed enemy.

As Jenkins makes a splash back in Russia, he tries to locate the two women and makes plans to get them out. However, there are those who have been anxiously awaiting his return, so much so that they will stop at nothing to bring Jenkins to justice once again, as well as a mafia don with revenge in his blood. As the tension mounts, Jenkins will have to formulate a plan to get out of Russia and back on American soil, or die protecting the silent sisters as they flee! Another well-paced novel that shows how versatile Robert Dugoni can be!

While I came to know the work of Robert Dugoni through his crime thrillers, he has surprised me with some great pieces that push the boundaries and take things in other directions. This Charles Jenkins espionage thriller seemed to come out of nowhere and has been gaining momentum for a while. It has all the elements of a stunning thriller, hinting at Cold War situations in a new and technological world. The rise of the new Russian enemy is the perfect backdrop for this piece, which has something for everyone.

Charles Jenkins remains a great protagonist in this piece, serving both as a CIA operative and family man. He has been forced to return to danger, putting his family at risk, but does so for the country he loves. There are surely some strains found within, but Jenkins knows what he has to do and is made out to be the only one who can do it. There are harrowing moments throughout, testing his mettle, but Jenkins seems always keen to do what he can, even if it puts him in excruciating pain.

As with all other Dugoni novels I have read, there is much going on and a need to keep things straight. I loved the back and forth offered by the narrative, as it kept me on my toes and wondering what would happen next. Dugoni offers up a masterful array of options in his narrative, which gains speed as the tension mounts. Strong characters and a plausible story help move things along as well, while short chapters keep the reader coming back for more. There is a real sense of ‘new Cold War’ with these pieces and Dugoni hits the nail on the head. He gives the reader a true sense of the urgency, the slow revelations, and the need to always stay one step ahead of the enemy, if only to ensure one’s own safety. The added benefit of a regular peppering of Russian throughout the text gave it a sense of realism. While I cannot be sure if the scheduled trilogy will end now (some authors seem not to be able to rid themselves of a character, even after they have promised a handful of books), I know I will keep my eyes open for possibilities and exciting new avenues.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for a wonderful story that held my attention throughout. You have a way with words that I thoroughly enjoy and I cannot wait to see what’s next.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

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: