cover image The Mercenary

The Mercenary

Paul Vidich. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (274p) ISBN 978-1-64313-620-2

Set in the mid-1980s, Vidich’s intriguing if flawed fourth CIA novel opens in Moscow, where CIA agent George Mueller, last seen in 2017’s The Good Assassin, is attempting to make a brush pass in Red Square with a senior KGB officer, code named Gambit, who wants to defect. Mueller spots Gambit, but before they can exchange identical cloth bags (Mueller’s contains “another man’s dinner,” Gambit’s “camera, film, radio, and rubles”), a Russian militiaman stops Mueller, and he ends up arrested by the KGB. In the aftermath of this failure, Gambit requests a different handler: Alexander Garin, a former CIA officer and the mercenary of the title. Born in the Soviet Union, Garin is an enigma; no one knows where his true loyalties lie. Vidich writes knowledgeably about the politics of the period, notably the impending changes to the U.S.S.R. with the rise of Gorbachev, and the spycraft rings true, but an enormous cast and labyrinthine plotting bog down the book. Still, fans of Cold War–era spy fiction will be rewarded. Agent: Will Roberts, Gernert Co. (Feb.)