Dara McIntyre, a capable CIA field operative, finds herself stuck in a boring desk job after her affair with a foreign spy becomes known to her bosses. Her dull job turns out to hold the key to solving the mystery surrounding a grisly set of off-the-books ops gone wrong.
The plot is intriguing and complex. Conflict exists on several levels leading to an interesting set of parallels to be resolved. The characters however leave something to be desired when it comes to credibility and the writing style relies too heavily on description at the expense of dialog. Overall I like the book, but have some reservations about recommending it to others.
Action develops too slowly. Not much happens in the first half of the book. We learn about a key event (an op gone wrong), meet the major characters and learn their agendas or problems, and get involved in some personality conflicts and office politics situations. It's a bit hard to get excited since not much happens by the halfway point. Had I not first read J.C. Carleson's next book, The Tyrant's Daughter, I might not have finished this one. That introduction to her storytelling ability gave me hope this one would eventually get moving. I am glad that I continued reading as the action picks up in the second half.
I found the romance side of the story hard to believe. Heroine Dara frequently finds it difficult to think clearly when lover Tariq is on her mind, despite the fact that she is supposed to be a very competent spy facing life-or-death situations. Any more description might spoil the story, so suffice it to say that the spies-in-love aspect was a bit much for this reader.
An interesting facet of J.C. Carleson's writing is her insider's view of a spy agency and its tradecraft. The situations she comes up with, her observations on people (Dominic, the annoying busybody spy), departments (the "tennis shoe ladies") and operations (creative side-stepping of heavy-handed external oversight) are fascinating and keep one reading to see what else she comes up with.
Overall I give this three stars. If this is your first J.C. Carleson novel, be sure to read The Tyrant's Daughter to see what this author is really capable of!