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The Last Agent


The Last Agent

Robert Dugoni, best known for his Tracy Crosswhite series, revisits his newest protagonist, former CIA agent Charles Jenkins, in THE LAST AGENT.

Picking up almost exactly where he left off with THE EIGHTH SISTER, Dugoni reintroduces Charles Jenkins, an astute and capable former spy who was betrayed in every sense of the word by his country. Having survived an undercover Russian operation gone wrong and lived through a harrowing treason trial, Jenkins has fewer reasons than ever to trust the CIA or the U.S. Though he harbors no deep love for Russia either, he is fully aware that he owes his life to at least two Russians: Viktor Federov, a former FSB agent, and Paulina Ponomayova, who sacrificed her own life to get him out of Russia safely.

Since the explosive finale of THE EIGHTH SISTER, Jenkins has been working hard to repay his former employees and to fully separate himself from all things related to the government and the agency. His only goal now is to raise his children, make his wife happy and pay his taxes. But when a CIA officer approaches him with the rumor that Paulina may be alive, and suffering in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, he finds the only thing that could ever draw him back into Russia: loyalty.

"For a series ostensibly about international intrigue, spies and espionage, Dugoni still manages to create very credible and human characters who positively burst off the page, even when the action has stilled for a moment."

Employing his trademark taut and lightning-fast pacing, Dugoni quickly sets the scene and lets Jenkins loose to do what he does best: infuriate nearly everyone around him. With a few brainstorms and a “now or never” attitude, he devises a plan to get himself back into Russia to verify the rumors about Paulina and hopefully bring her to America safely. To accomplish the first task, he calls upon an old friend: fan-favorite Federov, a man who was cast out of the FSB as a scapegoat and is in a unique position to understand Jenkins’ anger and need to prove himself. Banking --- quite literally --- on Federov’s greed and love of money, Jenkins wastes no time stealing a major fortune from him and using it to blackmail him into helping infiltrate Lefortovo. But if we’ve learned anything about Russia from international politics, the current climate of American-Russian relations and Dugoni’s own books, it’s that infiltrating Lefortovo will be easy. Making use of the information will be hard...very, very hard.

Breathing down the necks of Jenkins and Federov is an entirely new villain: Adam “The Brick” Efimov, a Neanderthalian hulk of a man who is known for his ability to crack anyone --- emotionally and physically --- for information. His favorite tool? You guessed it: a brick. Born into a common blue-collar family, Efimov grew up on the streets of Leningrad, playing alongside a young Vladimir Putin. Though Putin has given him a job, he has made it clear that he has no trouble eliminating it --- and him --- if Efimov does not maintain a successful track record. When word spreads that Jenkins is back in the country, Efimov becomes laser-focused on the only man to have escaped Russian authorities so thoroughly. Working alongside Efimov is Federov’s former partner, Arkady Volkov. With the two pairs of men equally matched in passion and familiarity, Dugoni sets his characters loose on the playing field of Russian politics, bribery-fueled businesses and even the open sea.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: When I open a new Dugoni novel, I always know to expect a “ripped from the headlines” plot that will engage me as much as it will inform me. And yet, somehow, I remain thoroughly in awe of his ability to drive these big international issues home in such a relatable and immediate way. What happened to Jenkins in THE EIGHTH SISTER was unthinkable and horrifying, yet he maintains a sense of pride in his country and an even deeper loyalty to those who protected him when he needed it most.

As readers, we know that Jenkins is extraordinary --- akin to the Jason Bournes and Jack Reachers of the literary world --- but by focusing on the smaller moments of his life at home and the all-encompassing “no man left behind” mantra that fuels him, Dugoni makes the plot feel like it could be unfolding right now, right next door. At the same time, he weaves in some serious research, a lot of information and an understanding of international politics that makes you feel like you are playing a learning game. How else could education be so fun and fast-paced? As always, Dugoni has done his research and infused his writing with it, without ever once information-dumping or overloading the plot.

When I read THE EIGHTH SISTER, I was immediately drawn to Jenkins, and I looked forward to seeing him again in future installments. But Federov was my absolute favorite Dugoni character since Tracy Crosswhite. I never thought he would reemerge in this series, and seeing him reunite with Jenkins, trading barbs, playing chess and bastardizing English idioms made my heart soar. Much like Sherlock and Moriarty, these are two men with similar intellects and skill sets, engendering a quiet mutual respect within each of them ---  but they are also enemies politically and nationally, which makes for some pitch-perfect tension and humor. For a series ostensibly about international intrigue, spies and espionage, Dugoni still manages to create very credible and human characters who positively burst off the page, even when the action has stilled for a moment.

This is not a series that you can jump into blind; reading THE EIGHTH SISTER first is a must before diving into THE LAST AGENT. And how lucky for you! You get to go on two heart-stopping, pulse-pounding thrill rides, and you won’t have to wait a year for the next installment --- at least until you finish book two.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 25, 2020

The Last Agent
by Robert Dugoni

  • Publication Date: September 22, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • ISBN-10: 1542014980
  • ISBN-13: 9781542014984