When author Noah Boyd is not writing novels, he's working hard on real-life cold cases; and he's no rank amateur: This former FBI agent spent decades tracking down culprits on high-profile crimes, including the Green River killings and Highland Park Strangler case. In this crisp thriller, ex-FBI operative Steve Vail returns from Boyd's debut The Bricklayer to pursue a devilish band of Russian agents with the help of the resourceful Kate Bannon. This appealing pair have no opportunity to tarry: Moscow executioners are racing to neutralize the offenders before they can be caught. Like its predecessor, Agent X possesses realistic details that enhance, but don't intrude on the action-packed narrative.
The pseudonymous Boyd's second thriller featuring Steve Vail, a Chicago bricklayer and former FBI agent, suffers from the same defects as its predecessor, The Bricklayer—a flat central character, a numbing abundance of dialogue, and too many improbable investigative epiphanies. Once again, Vail teams with beautiful FBI assistant director Kate Bannon in Washington, D.C., this time to investigate claims made by an informant known only as Calculus. An intelligence officer at the Russian embassy, Calculus says he know the identity of several Americans who are supplying Moscow with secret U.S. military information; he will dribble out the names—as long as the FBI coughs up ,000 per spy. Vail, meanwhile, has other ideas about how to find the treasonous U.S. citizens and squeeze Calculus for more information. In the course of a long and convoluted plot, Boyd, a former FBI agent, offers little about the inner workings of the agency or its investigative techniques. (Feb.)
A Soviet spy is willing to turn over a number of double agents leaking classified U.S. information until Moscow calls him home. Convinced the Russians know about their turncoat, the FBI has limited time to follow the informant's clues to find traitors high within the ranks of American agencies. Former FBI agent Boyd (The Bricklayer) returns with FBI assistant director Kate Bannon and ex-agent Steve Vail in this resurrection of Cold War spy craft. Vail's incredible ease in solving a decade-old kidnapping unrelated to the case, forced banter between characters, and stilted transitions leave this thriller with much to be desired. VERDICT A poorly written, clumsy romance subplot will distract readers from the action, and fans of the genre won't be impressed by crime-solving through sudden hunches and lucky run-ins with characters who handily know more than they should. Not recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/10.]—Colleen S. Harris, Univ. of Tennessee at Chattanooga Lib.
Those pesky Russian spies are at it again. So is Steve Vail (The Bricklayer, 2010).
Even though his deep anti-authoritarian streak made him give up on the FBI long ago, Stevehasn't given up on deputy assistant director Kate Bannon. Eager first to squire her to a diplomatic party she never makes it to and then to restore her reputation after what looks like her attempted suicide, he allows himself to get drawn back into the Bureau one last time (yeah, right) in the case of a Russian agent who's code-named himself Calculus. The agent has a list of American informants who've been selling information to the NVR, formerly the KGB, and in the spirit of capitalist enterprise, he wants to sell the list to the FBI, one name at a time. Agreeing to follow the clues Calculus has left to the entry-level mole, Steve quickly finds that Calculus really likes to play—the trail that leads from each informant to the next seems best suited to game-show veterans and Sudoku masters—and that someone (Calculus? the NVR? a player to be named later?) has a penchant for killing each of the informants just in time for the arrival of Steve and his old Bureau friend Luke Bursaw, who's stealing precious moments from the riddle of whether a serial killer of prostitutes has graduated to murdering a vanished FBI intelligence analyst. At length, the mind-boggling treasure hunt lands Kate in jail for treason, doomed to rot there forever unless Steve and company can somehow break her out, identify the real Agent X from among suspects in the Pentagon, the Lithuanian Chess Society and diverse defense contractors, and go after him with condign deadly force. Don't guess what happens, because there's no way you'll be wrong.
A three-ring carnival of counter-espionage, game-playing and summary justice whose many beautifully choreographed action sequences will make you forget how obvious its premise is, and how absurd its details.