A fast-paced, gripping political conspiracy thriller
To find a Russian mole in the White House, an FBI agent must question everything… and trust no one
No one was more surprised than FBI Agent Peter Sutherland when he’s tapped to work in the White House Situation Room. From his earliest days as a surveillance specialist, Peter has scrupulously done everything by the book, hoping his record will help him escape the taint of his past. When Peter was a boy, his father, a section chief in FBI counterintelligence, was suspected of selling secrets to the Russians — a catastrophic breach that had cost him his career, his reputation, and eventually his life.
Peter knows intimately how one broken rule can cost lives. Nowhere is he more vigilant than in this room, the sanctum of America’s secrets. Staffing the night action desk, his job is monitoring an emergency line for a call that has not — and might never — come.
At 1:05 a.m. the phone rings. A terrified young woman named Rose tells Peter that her aunt and uncle have just been murdered and that the killer is still in the house with her. Before their deaths, they gave her this phone number with urgent instructions: “Tell them OSPREY was right. It’s happening…”
The call thrusts Peter into the heart of a conspiracy years in the making, involving a Russian mole at the highest levels of the government. Anyone in the White House could be the traitor. Anyone could be corrupted. To save the nation, Peter must take the rules into his own hands and do the right thing, no matter the cost. He plunges into a desperate hunt for the traitor — a treacherous odyssey that pits him and Rose against some of Russia’s most skilled and ruthless operatives and the full force of the FBI itself.
Peter knows that the wider a secret is broadcast, the more dangerous it gets for the people at the center. With the fate of the country on the line, he and Rose must evade seasoned assassins and maneuver past jolting betrayals to find the shocking truth — and stop the threat from inside before it’s too late.
That surprisingly long synopsis does set up the plot for Matthew Quirk’s latest fast-paced thriller rather well. Peter Sutherland is languishing in the basement of the White House, working for two prominent administration staffers, in a strange, important-yet-unexciting job. Then, with a single phone call, his job and life is thrown completely out of whack. What follows is 400~ pages of breakneck paced thriller action and conspiracy. This is an entertaining, well-written thriller.
Back in 2011, I received a review copy of Matthew Quirk’s debut, The 500. It was a fast-paced thriller set in Washington, DC, that I blitzed through in one night. Since then, the author has released three other novels — the sequel to his debut, The Directive, and two novels in the John Hayes series (Cold Barrel Zero and Dead Man Switch). I haven’t yet had the chance to read the Hayes series, but I will do so very soon.
In the mood for a thriller, I decided to start reading The Night Agent. Hooked from very early on, I blitzed through this in a very contented couple of days. Much like his debut, The Night Agent highlights the author’s gift for penning thrillers that you just can’t put down. Lee Child’s blurb on the cover, describing the novel as “one-more-chapter, stay-up-late suspense”, is spot-on. Like James Patterson, Quirk relies on pretty short chapters to keep the pace and tension ratcheted up (albeit, his aren’t usually as short at JP’s…).
Peter Sutherland is a by-the-book FBI agent, wary of ever stepping out of bounds. You see, his father was implicated in a massive intelligence breach a few years back. Peter has spent much of his life and career attempting to redeem his family name: more in a personal sense than a public one — it’s his mission to prove that he’s not the same as his father, and that it is possible to do good while staying rigidly in-bounds. Sometimes, this boy-scout character comes across as naïve, but that is the point of the story: reality has a way of messing with our worldview and, in the case of those who find themselves in modern thriller novels/plots, making us reevaluate what we are willing to do for justice.
Snared into the centre of a conspiracy at the centre of the US government, he comes face-to-face with Cold War operatives, professional killers, and Russian agents. He’s put through the wringer, certainly, and Quirk remembers to make sure Sutherland’s ordeal have an impact on his general well-being and abilities — i.e., his wounds slow him down, he’s not omnipotent, and he makes mistakes as he tries to figure out what is happening. Along the way, he acquires and loses allies, calls into question everything he has believed in and worked for, as well as the motivations of those he finds himself working with.
Readers will be kept guessing for most of the novel, as there are a few red herrings thrown in, some false trails and bluffs. I think I guessed some of what was really happening just before it was revealed, but a couple of other nuggets were telegraphed just because I’m very familiar with the tropes of the genre. Nevertheless, I was entertained throughout, and Quirk has a real gift for tension, suspense and crafting excellent, accessible prose.
If you’re a fan of fast-paced political novels, then The Night Agent is a must-read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Definitely recommended.