The Mercenary

Mysterious Book Report No. 439

by John Dwaine McKenna

Moscow, during the late winter-early spring of 1985—in the waning times of the Soviet Empire and end of nearly fifty years of the Cold War—is the setting for a master work of espionage thriller entitled: The Mercenary, (Pegasus Crime, $25.95, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-64313-620-2), by Paul Vidich, in which a high-ranking KGB Officer is attempting to defect to the United States with a treasure-trove of priceless Soviet military secrets.

After approaching the CIA Moscow Station Chief in an open and dangerously clumsy way, the potential turncoat’s information is vetted, then he’s given the code name GAMBIT, and knowledge of him is restricted to the fewest number of persons—less than a handful—because the Americans have never been able to successfully exfiltrate anyone from Moscow Station.

GAMBIT demands that an ex-CIA officer, a man named Alek Garin, be his handler.  Garin’s an ex-KGB officer who defected to the U.S. and joined the CIA.  He failed in a prior attempt to bring out a KGB general, who was killed in the process.  The CIA chiefs don’t trust Garin, but decide to go ahead with the mission anyway, because GAMBIT’s huge amount of top-secret military information could be key to ending the Cold War.

Garin gains GAMBIT’s trust, but not the CIA’s.  Is he just a mercenary—a hired gun—acting only out of self-interest?  Will he sellout to another, higher bidder?  Will he be recognized by his old spymasters at the KGB . . . or is GAMBIT himself merely an elaborate ruse to lure Garin back so that he can be captured, tried and then executed?

You’ll find yourself reading faster and faster and ignoring routine chores as you race to the electrifying conclusion of this astonishingly tense and well-plotted spy yarn that’s as real as it gets without actually being there and running in fear for your life!


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