National Security agent Jordan Kirkwood is not your stereotypical spy. The debonair image on the cover brings to mind a James Bond type of leading man: supremely capable, suave, hyperintelligent, single, sexy, seductive and arrogant. Jordan Kirkwood, in practice, is the opposite of this. He's cool under pressure, fit to the point of healthy obsession, and undauntingly dedicated to his country.
But Jordan is not quite sure about what he's doing and, thankfully, is not a natural killer. He's a married father of two now-grown children, and his job has led to the unfortunate evolution of his becoming an absentee father and husband. He feels increasingly guilty about this every time he has to leave. He is also privately devout in his religion and believes his sins have warranted his suffering. He would be enticing enough to many women but never put much stock into attracting any; in any case, he adores his wife and under no conditions would he ever be unfaithful. Jordan seems as human as the rest of us, except that he's the only accomplished NSA field agent who's ever been able to last the duration.
While en route to London to rendezvous with his wife Rosemary, Jordan finds himself overly preoccupied. He is still in disguise and has only just come from a disturbing meeting with a man named Stanley Stuart, who had disclosed an unknown terrorist threat by Al-Qaeda on American soil. As proof, Stuart had a series of photos showing an American hangar enclosing Russian MiGs. Translation: planned nuclear weapons assault. Jordan's reaction to this discovery was the same as any citizen's would be: notify the appropriate agencies, right to the top. But after some reflection, he rationalizes (as did his informant) that someone at the top had to be involved, someone in NSA. The situation reeks of multinational involvement as well. In any case, Stuart has asked Jordan to quietly look into it, and Jordan knows he can't use his usual channels.
After exiting the plane, Jordan can see his wife talking with a stranger in the airport, looking for him. Still mulling over the MiGs as he watches her in disguise, he can see that she doesn't recognize him; she looks right through him. In these moments, an armed gunman with an American-made M16 guns her down along with the entire wall of passengers where she's standing. Jordan’s beloved wife is killed instantly as he watches helplessly. It takes him a few moments to accept that it's happened. By then, the gunman has been executed. Even in shock, Jordan does not break cover or remove his disguise. His highly disciplined mind forces him into "opposite trigger mode," focusing brutally and blocking emotional triggers. Only later, after he speaks with other agents, does he allow himself to grieve and become a man.
The devastating murder of Jordan's wife kicks off a series of harrowing events for Jordan. His children are expectedly distraught, and Jordan is crushed. NSA immediately tries to pin the responsibility on Jordan, who is incensed as he endures interrogations. He already harbored a significant grudge about his job because of what it has cost him, and that is compounded once he realizes the gunman was after him. Sadly, the situation is soon to recur once assassins come after him a second time, forcing him into hiding and leaving him even more desperate to quit his job. But Jordan finds that he is tied to the NSA inexorably, and the only option left is to pursue the terrorist network he has discovered and take them down.
THE LAST OPERATIVE is a Christian-based espionage story that is both touching and suspenseful, riveting from beginning to end. It's convincing and well written, which is no surprise from Jerry B. Jenkins, a bestselling author who has proven himself over and again. The operations Jordan embarks upon include a foray to Malpelo Island and Columbia, and these are tense, worrisome exploits that bring to mind a background in the armed services. At no time is the excellent pacing broken. The worldview presented is conservative and devoutly religious, principles that are enforced throughout. I must admit that, once or twice, I did miss the free confidence and mocking debonair of my favorite spy, James Bond. But I also liked Agent Kirkwood very much. He seems like any normal person you might see at the movies or on a plane, an everyman's kind of hero. He is the exact kind of government agent I'd want watching over me.
Traditional Christian readers and any who are ready for a really good adventure will enjoy THE LAST OPERATIVE. Fans of Jenkins will be thrilled with this rewrite of his first stand-alone novel.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on July 1, 2010