The Mercenary is a spy thriller set in Russia during the 1980s and involves the complicated attempt to smuggle out an important KGB informer.
Alex Garin is sent to Moscow to make the deal and bring the man over; one of the key factors of this story is that Garin was previously involved in another extraction attempt which failed. Placing Garin in a similar high profile situation just a few years after the first, bothered me; would the Russians not pick him up quickly? I expected the cage to close in around Garin far more quickly than it did.
In contrast, I liked the setting and there were plenty of good descriptions about life in Russia, for both Russians and embassy workers; the cold temperatures, the shortages and the knowledge that neighbours could turn informer at any moment, felt quite real. A couple of times I thought that the author watered down the tension by over explaining a situation, but these were only minor, and I did like the ending.
So a good thriller in this genre, not the best that I’ve read, but still a solid story.
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Moscow, 1985. The Soviet Union and its communist regime are in the last stages of decline, but remain opaque to the rest of the world—and still very dangerous. In this ever-shifting landscape, a senior KGB officer—code name GAMBIT—has approached the CIA Moscow Station chief with top secret military weapons intelligence and asked to be exfiltrated. GAMBIT demands that his handler be a former CIA officer, Alex Garin, a former KGB officer who defected to the American side.
The CIA had never successfully exfiltrated a KGB officer from Moscow, and the top brass do not trust Garin. But they have no other options: GAMBIT’s secrets could be the deciding factor in the Cold War.
Garin is able to gain the trust of GAMBIT, but remains an enigma. Is he a mercenary acting in self-interest or are there deeper secrets from his past that would explain where his loyalties truly lie? As the date nears for GAMBIT’s exfiltration, and with the walls closing in on both of them, Garin begins a relationship with a Russian agent and sets into motion a plan that could compromise everything.