cover image Red Star Burning

Red Star Burning

Brian Freemantle. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-00636-3

Freemantle’s dry satirical wit, aimed directly at the pomposity of intelligence bureaucrats and politicians, lifts his 16th thriller featuring spy Charlie Muffin (after 2010’s Red Star Rising). Muffin goes undercover in Russia to extract his own wife—their marriage has been a secret up until now—and return with her to London. His wife, Natalia, a colonel in Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB, has long wanted to defect, and her knowledge of her country’s secret affairs would be a huge intelligence coup for Charlie’s employer, MI5. Meanwhile, Charlie’s bosses, led by the unctuous Gerald Monsford, have their own extraction operation going on, and the unwitting Charlie is merely bait to distract the Russians’ attention. Though the plot suffers from a surfeit of talking and a paucity of action, Muffin’s a smooth operator, who with any luck will take on a more exciting challenge in his next outing. (June)