Book Review: Agent in Place, Mark Greaney

Book Review: Agent in PlaceMark Greaney

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Thriller: Agent in PlaceMark Greaney

The Gray Man is back. Courtland Gentry is an assassin. After years running from the CIA, he has made his peace with them and even worked for them in Asia. But not all went well with that op, and he fears he may have lost some of his edge when he developed feelings for a Russian agent he met. So Gentry takes a job capturing the mistress of the Syrian president. Although she is guarded by elite Syrian forces, this is the Gray Man. What could go wrong? Plenty!

 

Agent in Place takes us from Paris to Damascus in a thriller that grips you from the first page and refuses to let go until the last. In this seventh installment of his Gray Man series, Mark Greaney shows us the hardened mercenary we have come to know already. But this version of the Gray Man has found some softness. Gentry has always fought for what he deemed to be “right.” He killed people who deserved to be killed, he spared the innocent and the bystanders, and he refused jobs that did not meet his standards. So, when he is offered a job by Syrian opposition forces in exile to strike a blow against the mass murderer in charge of the country by capturing his mistress, he accepts. The plan is to free her from his clutches so she can testify to his double-crossing the Russians, thus removing his support from his primary backers. But there is a small complication: her four-month old son is still in Damascus. She will not speak out until he is safe, and only the Gray Man has the tools and the courage to rescue the child.

 

Mark Greaney is an expert in weaving a complicated plot that still manages to stay tied together. Agent in Place also shows us some new sides to a familiar character. Gentry does not know anything about children, especially babies. Facing Syrian intelligence agents and special forces, he is completely flummoxed by the formula needs of the infant. It does not occur to him that traveling with a baby means packing diapers. It also shows glimpses of wit. Deep in the Syrian desert, surrounded by fighters from many sides, he complains that his travel agent had told him he was heading to a “clothing optional” resort. Still, for those who go into the book looking for action, there is plenty to satisfy.

 

I was surprised by one major plot twist which seemed to rely completely on luck, or perhaps deus ex machina. Greaney is a good enough writer to make it work, but I have to admit that seeing Gentry get bailed out of a hopeless situation by getting unexpectedly captured by good guys felt a bit contrived. I suppose that occasionally even the Gray Man deserves a little bit of good luck–he certainly has more than his share of bad luck–but when a character known for using his wits, his skills, and more than a little violence to get out of trouble is accidentally captured by actual allies in the midst of the Syrian civil war, it was a bit disconcerting.

 

Mark Greaney puts a lot into his novels. He has degrees in political science and international relations, both of which play major roles in all of his books. In preparation for his novels, Greaney has traveled to dozens of countries, interviewed leaders at the Pentagon, and taken training in weapons and combat from actual military trainers. The preparation shows, as his locations feel authentic, the descriptions of combat are intense and heart pounding, and the politics and international intrigue feels pulled from the headlines.

 

All in all, it was a typically satisfying Greaney novel. The good guy won, taking out a bunch of bad guys, and the Agent in Place was indeed in the right place and at the right time. Not a bad beach read.

 

0451488903

Book Review: Agent in PlaceMark Greaney

Author Spotlights: If You like Tom Clancy, You will Like Mark Greaney

Author Spotlights: If You like Tom Clancy, You will Like Mark Greaney

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Tom Clancy

In the 1980s the Cold War was nearing its end, though no one knew it then. Into this backdrop of geopolitical tension and rivalry, Tom Clancy, an insurance agent from Maryland, published his first book. With brilliant and heroic CIA agent Jack Ryan working to help a Soviet submarine captain defect with his state-of-the-art sub, The Hunt for Red October became a bestseller. Promoted by no one less than the Book Critic in Chief, Ronald Reagan, Tom Clancy embarked on a second career as an author, turning out book after book that kept him at the top of the best seller lists for decades. Several of his books also became hit movies, starring the likes of Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, and Chris Pine.

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Tom Clancy dominated the literary world like few others, from 1984 until his death in 2013. With iconic characters, sharp dialog, and technical accuracy, he shaped the genre of wide-focused geopolitical thrillers. Multiple conspiracies, nefarious political actors at home and abroad, bold action by our enemies and too often dithering and indecisiveness on the part of the US set the stage for crises that fortunately could be resolved at the end by Jack Ryan, John Clark, Rainbow Six, and the rest of his ultra heroic ubermenschen. His heroes did not have super powers, but they had few physical, mental, or moral weaknesses and never needed (nor ever received) oversight or punishment for overreach.

 

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Clancy could tell a story. To his credit, he often shared that story with others. He partnered with other writers during his life, and his estate has continued to do so since his death.  One writer to pick up his mantle is Mark Greaney. Greaney co-wrote Clancy’s last three novels, Locked On, Threat Vector, and Command Authority.

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Following Clancy’s death, Greaney has written four more novels in the same world: Tom Clancy: Support and Defend, Tom Clancy: Full Force and Effect, Tom Clancy: Commander in Chief, and Tom Clancy: True Faith and Allegiance.

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Mark Greaney

Greaney is also known for his Gray Man series of novels. These novels feature a disavowed CIA Agent who has become the best assassin for hire in the world, but one that holds to a moral code that prohibits him from killing “innocents” or good guys. You could hire him to kill your drug dealing rival, but not your ex-wife (unless she was a drug-dealing rival). As the novels progress, Court Gentry (the Gray Man) works out his differences with the CIA, but continues to hew to his own moral code even when it interferes with his agency missions. This usually means he is in a position where he is opposed by all of the competing parties in the novels, most of whom want him dead. Fortunately, the skill set and tenacity of the Gray Man allows him to walk–or at least limp–away at the end.

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There will never be another Tom Clancy. But in the world of high energy, world traveling, politically intriguing, death-dealing heroes, Mark Greaney fills the void.