Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.
Ryan Drake, a former British soldier now working for the Special Activities Division of the CIA, is a Shepherd - he finds and brings home missing agents. When he is given a new mission to break an important agent out of a Siberian prison, he has some reservations… until his boss, Marcus Cain, promises in return to erase some baggage in his military past in Afghanistan.
The prisoner in question is a woman called Maras, and Cain won’t say why she is so important, only that her freedom is vital.
Gathering together a Shepherd Team of skilled agents, he leads the break-out and secures Maras’s freedom. But he discovers in the process that Maras is no ordinary woman, and is highly dangerous, one of her mottoes being You will never surrender.
After four years in solitary confinement, and having suffered countless sessions of abuse and deprivation, she has a lot of anger to vent – and as she demonstrates, the skill to do so with lethal force.
But on the way to delivering her to Cain, Drake receives a nasty phone call. His sister Jessica has been taken hostage by a former CIA agent named Munro, and he wants Maras for himself. If he doesn’t get her, the result is that Jessica won’t survive.
Told to break Maras out of the protective custody of the CIA, Drake is forced to take her via Saudi Arabia and into Iraq, to meet an old contact of hers. This contact, he is told, has proof of illegal arms deals during the war in Iraq.
In a whirlwind journey, now dogged by his colleagues in the Shepherd Team with orders to stop them at all costs, Drake and Maras make their perilous journey and meet up with the contact.
But this is where Drake faces his biggest challenge, risking everything alongside a woman he still can’t trust completely, to secure the release of his sister from a man with a history of hatred and violence.
This very impressive debut easily earns the much-used term ‘roller-coaster’ – and with good reason. Packed with action, tension, crosses and double-crosses, it doesn’t let up for a moment. The characters are skilfully drawn, with the villains of the plot the kind you want to see defeated big-time, and Drake and Maras each carrying a different kind of baggage while trying to survive in a world determined to bring them down. In Maras in particular, I found echoes of Modesty Blaise in her resolve, detachment and lethal, single-minded attitude, as well as the mystery surrounding just who she is.