THE ART OF RENDITION is the second in what ultimately will be a trio of eBook short story exclusives that in turn serve as an introduction to Mark Sullivan’s Robin Monarch series. The first of these, BROTHERHOOD, released in February, and the last one, THE ESCAPE ARTIST, will follow just prior to the October publication of the full-length novel ROGUE. Monarch is the leader of a CIA special operations group with enough degrees of separation as to provide plausible deniability to the U.S. government and, more specifically, the CIA.
"While THE ART OF RENDITION is a shorter work, it reads like a novel. Sullivan’s prose is not sparse, but he does not waste words; every one counts to maximum effect. Even the more reflective passages are infused with suspense, as the past and present Monarch make tough decisions and take actions with which reasonable minds might agree or differ."
This latest book moves quickly along two parallel storylines: one set in Monarch’s past, when he was 16 years old, and the other in the recent present of 2005. The latter begins in Berlin, where Monarch and his team are tasked with kidnapping a foreign national who has been selling his knowledge, skills and talents in the field of nuclear research to the highest bidder. The most recent “highest bidder” is someone who is extremely unfriendly to the United States and its allies; once the target is acquired in Berlin, he is to be passed off to a second team in Poland for purposes that are above Monarch’s pay grade. The CIA apparently has some competition with respect to the acquisition of the target, and they are every bit as persistent (and almost as competent) as Monarch’s team.
As Monarch participates in the rendition operation and its aftermath, he is reminded intermittently of a somewhat similar yet very different activity in which he was involved when he was an orphaned Buenos Aires street rat and a member of La Fraternidad de Ladrones, the Brotherhood of Thieves. The Brotherhood, with his direct involvement, kidnaps a young woman of about Monarch’s age for the purpose of holding her for ransom. He doesn’t feel right about the action, and as things begin to go wrong, he questions his own involvement and ultimately the methods of the information extraction team. In both cases, Monarch reaches a decision point that will influence his future for better or for worse, but will almost certainly create complications of one sort or another for him down the road.
While THE ART OF RENDITION is a shorter work, it reads like a novel. Sullivan’s prose is not sparse, but he does not waste words; every one counts to maximum effect. Even the more reflective passages are infused with suspense, as the past and present Monarch make tough decisions and take actions with which reasonable minds might agree or differ. And while the book works extremely well on its own, it also serves to whet the appetite not only for the third piece in the novella trilogy but also for ROGUE. Jump on the Monarch bandwagon now.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 29, 2012