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Moscow Sting    by Alex Dryden order for
Moscow Sting
by Alex Dryden
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alex Dryden's Moscow Sting is the sequel to his romantic spy thriller Red to Black, which had at its core financial shenanigans performed over decades as the ultimate power grab of a ruthless totalitarian regime. British agent Finn's quest for the truth led to his assassination, leaving behind his wife Anna Resnikov (an ex-KGB Colonel) and their small son.

Now in Moscow Sting, Finn's previous boss, Adrian Carew, seeks revenge for his murder by the Russians, and various powers are looking for Anna, as their key to identifying the elusive Mikhail, and (depending on which side they're on) either exploiting his access to Russian secrets at the highest level or eliminating him. Readers soon learn that Anna, and Little Finn are living under the protection of the French intelligence service, in the small village of Fougieres. Her only contact is Finn's older Hungarian friend Willy, 'an undemanding friend and father figure' and godfather to her son.

Dryden introduces several new players in Moscow Sting. First is jaded thirty-six year old ex-CIA agent Logan Halloran. A freelancer since 'he became the fall guy for someone else's mistake in the Serbian war', Logan sniffs out Anna's trail and sells the information to various bidders. Next we meet an international assassin named Lars - he kills efficiently in the manner ordered. And then there's large, ebullient, uber-wealthy spymaster Burt Miller, a private American intelligence contractor running a multi-billion dollar company, Cougar.

The action begins when Little Finn is kidnapped. Following him, Anna and Willy encounter Burt and his agents who have apparently saved the boy from Russian agents. Burt takes mother and child to America, where Anna is interrogated (by Logan and Marcie, both working for Cougar) and then carefully coached. But Anna knows her trade better than anyone on Burt's team, and regularly sheds her followers to take independent action. She makes contact with both her childhood friend Vladimir and with Mikhail, and of course is betrayed.

Moscow Sting is a wonderful, thrilling, intelligent read, much better (especially in pacing) than Red to Black. While the former took on international financial shenanigans, this second episode takes a close, hard look at the perils of private intelligence contracting (which Burt warns would inevitably 'lead to the false creation of a threat'. I very much hope that there will be more in this excellent espionage series.

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