Tess Gerritsen’s Terrific New Thriller The Spy Coast Focuses on Retired CIA Operatives in Maine

Maggie Bird gave decades of her life to the CIA, fighting foreign enemies in far flung countries. Now 60, she’s settled into a quiet life on Blackberry Farm in Purity, Maine, raising chickens and trying to leave her past behind. One case, however, refuses to stay buried. And when a dead body shows up in Maggie’s driveway, she knows she must dig deep to discover who knows what she did and wants revenge..

Maggie won’t wage this battle alone. Members of the Martini Club, fellow CIA retirees in Purity, meet regularly to discuss books. Allegedly. What they often focus on is local gossip, any rumors that might lead to one of their members being outed as a former spy. “I have no doubt there are others like us quietly living out their retirement throughout Maine, a state that’s long been used by the Agency as a convenient location for safe houses.” Maggie retired to Purity to be near her former friends and allies. Now that she’s in the midst of a murder investigation that no doubt links to her past, she’s grateful to have them by her side.

Jo Thibodeau, recently named Purity’s police chief, begins investigating the shooting death of Bianca, the young woman found on Maggie’s property. Although she’s new to the top job, Jo is a lifelong Purity resident, knows everyone and all their histories. But she’s flummoxed by this group of senior citizens. Not only is Maggie calm and methodical studying the body, but her friends make observations similar to those of seasoned law enforcement professionals. Who are these people? 

Maggie clings to her story that she worked in international sales for a fashion group. But the numerous security cameras around her property tell Jo that Maggie is no ordinary chicken farmer. Studying the footage from the cameras, Jo views a dark SUV drive onto Maggie’s driveway and then deposit Bianca’s body, carefully arranging her face up, her arms spread out. 

Several days later, someone takes shots at Maggie making it clear that the former CIA officer is the target. Bianca’s body was just a warning.

Bianca had visited Maggie the day of her death and not to buy eggs, as Maggie told Jo. The Agency, she told Maggie, was looking for another former agent, Diana Ward. Hearing Diana’s name brought Maggie back to a time she has tried hard to forget when a CIA operation, dubbed “Cyrano,” went south, killing many innocent people. Maggie still holds Diana responsible for the disaster and for dragging her into it. A breach at the Agency has revealed those involved in Cyrano and now someone is out for payback.

The narrative shifts to the past where 24 years ago when Maggie was in Bangkok. There she met a young British doctor named Danny Gallagher, whose work took him to disadvantaged areas, treating everything from gunshot wounds to malaria. Maggie tells him she works for Europa Global Logistics, described as a customs brokerage for import export, mostly in fashion, but really a front for the CIA. The two are attracted to each other and begin an affair that will last for years. Danny moves back to London where he works in a hospital emergency room and Maggie flies there whenever she can get a break.

One night in a fancy London restaurant, Danny saves the life of a man who is choking. Maggie’s ability to assist him when he has to open the man’s throat baffles Danny, but he asks no questions. Soon after that event, he’s offered a job with the Galen Medical Concierge. When Maggie accepts his marriage proposal and agrees to move to London, he takes the job with Galen knowing it will mean a generous salary and additional perks, including a large apartment.

Tess Gerritsen (Photo Credit: Josh Gerritsen)

But Maggie’s plan to leave the CIA is thwarted by Diana. Danny’s primary patient, the wealthy industrialist, Phillip Hardwicke, is close to Simon Potoyev, a Russian oligarch, with connections in the Kremlin. The Agency’s real target is Cyrano, someone working for the Russians who may be high up in the British government. Diana plants the seed that Danny might also be working for Russia and their meeting in Bangkok was not random. Maggie is forced to stay and do something she will forever regret, spy on Danny, while also working to uncover Cyrano’s identity.

Because Hardwicke is prone to seizures, Danny must travel with him wherever he goes. It’s easy for Maggie to tag along. Hardwicke even recruits Maggie to spend time with his uncooperative, overweight daughter, Bella. Maggie finds Bella useful for her investigation. The young woman is observant and knows a lot about her father’s business. But Maggie honestly likes Bella, helping her choose clothes that better suit her figure and serving as a sounding board for managing the other women in her life – Hardwicke’s ex-wife and Bella’s mother, Camilla, and his mistress, Silvia. The last trip Maggie takes with the group is to Malta, a trip she will never forget as hard as she tries. And now she has to revisit what happened on that island to find out who wants to kill her.

Tess Gerritsen, whose Rizzoli & Isles series inspired the TNT hit series starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, has created another irresistible protagonist in Maggie Bird, as well as an appealing roster of supporting characters. I couldn’t finish this one fast enough and can’t wait for the next one in the series. 

The Spy Coast
Tess Gerritsen

Top photo: Bigstock

About Charlene Giannetti (706 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.