THE LAST SPYMASTER is Gayle Lynds's much anticipated return to the thriller novel shelves. Lynds has been gone but certainly not forgotten since 2004's THE COIL. Her newest work is ample reward for her faithful readers; it contains sufficient action for two books of its size, and enough twists and turns to make its plot outline resemble a map of Highway One.
Jay Tice is "the last spymaster," a legendary CIA operative who was feared and loved both outside of and within the agency during the Cold War. His career, along with his freedom, came to an end with his conviction for treason as the result of his commission of a series of dastardly acts that compromised United States intelligence and its agents for decades. Incarcerated in the nation's most secure prison, Tice abruptly disappears from his cell and becomes the subject of an intense manhunt.
Elaine Cunningham, a CIA agent who has reached the end of her career path, nonetheless is the best hunter the agency has. She is assigned to locate Tice before the rest of the world even knows he's gone. However, Cunningham almost immediately discovers that what has occurred is far more than a prison escape. Tice is being pursued by a number of parties, each with an agenda that will compromise the security of the United States.
Convicted of treason against the US, Tice ironically is the only person who can thwart the planned attack against it. To do this, he will need the assistance of Cunningham, even as she pursues him, as well as some individuals linked to his shadowy and painful past. Neither Tice nor Cunningham can fully trust each other, or anyone for that matter. Even as they forge an uneasy and uncertain alliance, their time is running out.
Lynds's storytelling prowess is at its all-time best here. She gives readers an over-the-shoulder look at spy craft, 21st century-style, as well as some bits of history (including the first recorded act of espionage, among other things). At its base, however, THE LAST SPYMASTER is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that surprises, delights, and keeps the heart --- and pages --- racing all the way to its conclusion. One can't ask for much better than that. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 30, 2010