The Mercenary by Paul Vidich

Old-style, cold war spy work goes on in this story. It is the time just before Gorbachov becomes President of the Soviet Union and a KGB officer wants to defect and has asked for a particular Intelligence officer to handle his case. It’s just that this Intelligence office no longer works for the organisation and is a man who decides himself how things will be done. It’s a classic plot, get the defector out before anyone notices and they and their handler are caught.

The muddying of the waters in this case is that the handler, Aleksandar Garin, has form in the Soviet Union for failing to get an earlier defector out of the country and so he is known to the KGB and others. There is also a love interest in the form of a beautiful ex-ballet dancer who now works for the KGB who survives but who is let down by men time and time again.

There is action, quite a lot of it, guns and drugs, and of course leaks in both the CIA and KGB and it is the political turmoil that the Soviet Union is undergoing that Garin takes advantage of to exfiltrate GAMBIT.

All the building blocks are there but somehow it doesn’t quite work. I got a little lost with all the Russians involved and the parts they played and somehow the whole storyline was a bit staid, never really got going. I enjoyed it enough to read more of his work but this may not have been the best of his books to start the Vidich reading journey with. I have Beirut Staion on order at the library. Not giving up, yet.

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