SLINGSHOT is anything but a paint-by-number spy thriller. Matthew Dunn’s third Will Cochrane novel is a complex work with a twisting and turning plot that moves ever forward, loaded with the double- and triple-crosses that readers who follow the author have come to expect.
The setting at the start of the book is 1995 Berlin, where representatives from the United States and Russian governments have gathered for a somber meeting. The purpose is to create an initiative that is classified at the highest levels and will be executed only upon the occasion of a certain event. Should that event occur, the resultant plot will lead to the deaths of hundreds of millions of innocent people. The signatories, in order to guarantee the confidentiality of the plan, sign a document that permits an international assassin --- a frighteningly capable agent named Kronos --- to be tasked with eliminating anyone who leaks the information. The method by which Kronos is to be notified is a complicated one that involves fail-safes, consisting primarily of a code that is split between two documents, each half of which is held by a Russian and American representative.
"SLINGSHOT is anything but a paint-by-number spy thriller. Matthew Dunn’s third Will Cochrane novel is a complex work with a twisting and turning plot that moves ever forward, loaded with the double- and triple-crosses that readers who follow the author have come to expect."
Fast forward to the present. An unknown party to the agreement is about to reveal its contents to the World Court. The documents containing the code have been stolen. Cochrane, leading a team on behalf of Britain’s MI6, does so with the ostensive cooperation of the CIA with the intent of recovering the missing documents before Kronos can be unleashed. At the same time, a Russian operative who is every bit the equal of Cochrane is pursuing those very documents. There are moles aplenty in MI6 and the CIA, and, as I said earlier, things become a bit complex with respect to determining exactly who is doing what and to whom, and why. Nevertheless, things become sorted out in due course, particularly when Cochrane’s sister, from whom he has been estranged, is selected as a target in order to force Cochrane to back off his pursuit. Before the story is concluded, alliances will change, lives will be lost, and a terrible secret will be revealed, though not without a great cost.
Matthew Dunn is a former MI6 operative, and it shows in all of his Spycatcher novels, particularly this one. His biography indicates that he conducted approximately 70 missions with a 100% success rate. Cochrane doesn’t quite match that, but his exploits ring true nonetheless. One gets the feeling while reading that many of the explosive vignettes that are set forth in the narrative (and there are quite a few) actually took place, with the names and locations altered to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.
Dunn has steadily improved with each installment of the Spycatcher series, molding Cochrane into a complex and sympathetic character and dropping him into suspense-filled situations. Readers will also enjoy the supporting cast, particularly Cochrane’s neighbors, who, at least at this point in the series, haven’t a clue as to what he is truly about. SLINGSHOT should be added to the must-read lists of all fans of espionage thrillers.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 2, 2013