Lawson consistently delivers. This thriller begins with the execution of an American spy in Iran and a circular plot with more villains and thugs than Joe DeMarco usually faces, even in his job as fixer for Speaker of the House John Fitzpatrick Mahoney. DeMarco is no wide-eyed innocent, well aware of his obligation to attend to the sometimes messy business of the speaker, this time to protect Mahoney’s reputation.
A seasoned politician, Mahoney knows where most of Washington’s secrets are buried but isn’t happy to have his own exposed. When a reporter leaks a story about the clandestine business deal of an American company with Iran that involves weapons technology, her story gets the CIA spy killed. Refusing to name her source, reporter Sandra Whitmore has no scruples about threatening the Speaker with a little polite blackmail in an effort to get herself released from jail. But Mahoney’s self-interests and DeMarco’s actions pale against the murder and mayhem unleashed after the spy’s death: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
While the CIA moves in to exact retribution for the loss of one of theirs, DeMarco stumbles into a morass of special interests and criminal activities: a wealthy businessman whose successful corporation is ripe for the plundering; a Russian mobster who muscles in on the company and strips the owner of his profits, his cars and his homes; a series of hitmen and thugs hired to run interference; and a silent killer with a mission of his own who follows DeMarco from one subject to another, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind.
Lawson’s behind-the-scenes plot of CIA agents and Russian mob connections lends this tale a different flavor from his other thrillers, exploring the extremes of spycraft and underworld menace as well as the comparative naiveté of a Washington fixer when faced with this level of intrigue and self-interest. Spies, gangsters, a beautiful agent who wants to make her bones and make a difference in the war on terror, a ruthless Russian who employs a staff of killer muscle and the man who shadows DeMarco as Mahoney’s fixer leads him on a trail of victims - these characters offer a plethora of crazies and professionals.
While this is serious business, Lawson writes with a sly humor, describing a netherworld of goons for hire and a CIA that operates below the radar of local authorities. DeMarco, suave as always, manages to end up with a beautiful CIA agent in a wild ride of near-misses and wild shots, the silent killer stalking the others and taking his toll on those responsible for the spy’s death. The usual Beltway problems seem tame compared to real-time espionage and the cold-blooded killers who populate this novel.