At 65, CIA case officer Charles Jenkins should be enjoying his retirement, his nine year-old son, and taking care of his much younger wife, Alex, who is struggling with a difficult pregnancy. But the business the couple started, CJ Security, is on shaky ground, and if it goes under, they will lose everything. When Carl Emerson, a former CIA station chief, shows up with a risky yet lucrative assignment, Jenkins finds it hard to turn down.
Emerson tells Jenkins that there are seven Russian women, chosen since birth to spy for the U.S. Their identities are closely held and they are unaware that they are part of a group. However, three are now missing and presumed dead. Jenkins’ mission is to travel to Russia and locate the so-called eighth sister, Putin’s counter agent, before the other four women are killed. Jenkins left the CIA after an operation he was involved in went south and people died. He’s older and his Russian is a little rusty, but Emerson can easily reactivate him rather than having to recruit another agent. Without telling Alex, Jenkins agrees to take on the assignment, the $50,000 deposited in CJ Security’s account a big motivator.
CJ Security’s major client, LSR&C, has an office in Moscow, creating the perfect cover for Jenkins. Following Emerson’s instructions, Jenkins calls the FSB, which replaced the former KGB, and tells an agent named Federov that he has information of interest to the Russian government. Thus begins a cat and mouse game with the situation becoming more dangerous for Jenkins with every meeting.
Dugoni is great at ratcheting up the tension, made even more intense with Jenkins’ physical limitations. One scene, where Jenkins must swim underwater in a too tight wet suit to rendez-vous with a trawler is not meant for the faint of heart. Trying to escape Russia before being killed by the FSB, Jenkins must not only swim, but ride virtually every means of transportation as well as check in and out of hotels to evade his pursuers. When he realizes that he may have placed his family in danger, he calls Alex and, using an agreed upon verbal code, she flees takes their son and hides out at the home of their attorney, David Sloan. Because Alex’s condition makes it ill-advised for her to travel to Greece to provide Jenkins with the papers he will need to come back to the U.S., Sloan’s son, Jake, insists that he make the trip. Nail-biting time again.
Even after he’s safely back in the states, Jenkins problems have just begun, and those he trusted with his and his family’s safety turn out to be the ones he should have feared from the beginning. Dugoni can rightly be blamed for all those sleepless nights experienced by his readers who, no doubt, can’t wait for his next book.
The Eighth Sister
Robert Dugoni’s photo by Douglas Sonders