One of the more interesting aspects of Stephen Coonts's series of
Jake Grafton thrillers is his steadfast policy of advancing his
main and secondary characters. Resisting what arguably would be the
tempting --- and easier --- inclination to keep Grafton in early
middle-aged active duty, Coonts has retired his primary character
from military service, though he is neither gone nor
Grafton is now the CIA operations officer in charge of Europe, a
thankless job under the best of circumstances. The focus of
Coonts's narratives is slowly shifting to Tommy Carmellini, who for
several years has been in a variety of capacities. Now a CIA
officer, Carmellini continues to have trouble coloring inside the
lines, an element that makes for an interesting contrast in style
between him and Grafton.
THE TRAITOR resumes the figurative passing of the baton from
Grafton to Carmellini, and in some ways it perhaps seems to be more
of a transitional book than some of the others in this fine series.
Given the shift in personalities and settings, Coonts is
concentrating more on espionage than on military strategy, somewhat
of a break from the past. THE TRAITOR accordingly contains layer
upon layer of deceit and deception, and while the narrative has
plenty of fistfights and explosions, it is perhaps a bit more
cerebral than one might expect.
On the eve of a meeting of the G-8 leaders in Paris, Grafton
discovers that Henri Rodet, the director of French intelligence,
has been making clandestine investments in the Bank of Palestine.
Given the institution's support of terrorism, such investments
would seem to conflict with his duties to protect the world leaders
arriving in Paris for the meeting. Rodet also apparently has a mole
among the leaders of al-Qaeda, which he denies. It is left to
Grafton and Carmellini to ferret out the truth and to ensure that
the summit occurs as planned and without incident.
This is an enterprise fraught with difficulty, as it is extremely
challenging for them to discern friend from foe, as death and
danger comes at Carmellini from multiple sources. While there are
no real surprises as readers approach the ending, there is enough
of Coonts's trademark excitement to keep the pages turning to the
book's ultimate conclusion.
THE TRAITOR eschews military hardware for some smaller but still
interesting military gadgets, although they are kept to somewhat of
a minimum. Additionally, Carmellini isn't married, so he is able to
engage in some extracurricular activities that naturally cause him
a bit of trouble in addition to what he might encounter in the
ordinary course of his work. And there is plenty of trouble to be
had. Coonts continues to display a masterful ability to suddenly
turn a quiet scene into an explosive, deadly inferno, and there are
a number of places here where he does just that.
While there are a couple of points where Coonts does not seem to be
as surefooted as he normally is, by story's conclusion all is well
and he has set up enough continuing storylines to keep the reader
wondering what will be coming in the next installment.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011