The Venetian Judgment
David Stone
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Buy *The Venetian Judgment* by David Stone online

The Venetian Judgment
David Stone
432 pages
April 2009
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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David Stone has an advantage over other writers in the espionage/thriller genre: he uses a ‘cover name’ to protect his identity. Born into a military family, he has served as both an intelligence officer and investigator for a state-level law enforcement agency. The firsthand knowledge he brings to the table when creating a new novel is filled with such minute detail that he has no choice but to keep his identity a secret.

David Stone’s ‘spy’ novels aren’t filled with martinis, romance and fancy cars (like any James Bond novel) or overdone chase sequences (like any Jason Bourne novel). With the release of his third novel, The Venetian Judgment, the reader is once again drawn deeply inside the modern spy game where being ‘burnt’, ‘out of the cold,’ or in ‘deep cover’ are realities his lead characters face on a daily basis - not to mention regularly getting caught in the middle of national and international crises.

The Venetian Judgment picks right up from where Stone left off with his previous novel, The Orpheus Deception. Lead character and professional ‘cleaner’ for the CIA Micah Dalton has been laying low in Venice after his involvement in a brutal battle with a Serbian gang in which his lover was shot. His job as a cleaner involves being sent on missions to clean up any messes made by other CIA operatives, a job he does with quiet efficiency. When he is sent a strange box containing what appears to be a stainless-steel glass cutter, Micah recognizes the gift to be a sign that a defunct spy group known as the Glass Cutters is in danger.

Micah teams up with a half-British/half-American associate, Mandy Pownall, who is called in to investigate the brutal murder of an elderly woman in London who was a former colleague of theirs - and former member of the Glass Cutters. Stone’s narrative includes not only the Stone/Pownall investigation but also focuses on another member of the Glass Cutters: Briony Keating, who resides in a Hudson Valley country manor in upstate New York and realizes that she may be on the hit list of whatever group is hunting members of her former team. She is also dealing with the sudden disappearance of her military son, who may have been abducted by the Taliban while stationed in Eastern Europe.

The identity of the rogue group that is hunting down the Glass Cutters may turn out to be an old enemy of the U.S., marking the start of a new Cold War. There may also be a plant high up in the CIA working to undermine their mission and paint a negative image of the U.S in the global press. The action moves back and forth, with Dalton’s mission taking him from Venice to Santorini and eventually to Istanbul in pursuit of an assassin they feel may be responsible for the brutal murders. The action is appropriate and not overdone here, the intelligence mining and terminology so intricate you really have to be on your toes to keep up with this smart thriller.

When asked if his stories were based on his own experience, David Stone said, “If they were I’d be dead now, although I’ve had my times. But not even I can drink like Micah Dalton. He’s kind of like me, only younger, smarter, meaner, better-looking, and he has the liver of a Norse God.” Here’s hoping we see more of Stone’s ‘cleaner’ as this engaging espionage series continues to thrive.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Ray Palen, 2009

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