"Her AK-47 assault rifle held chest high, she pounded down a
tunnel lined with rough rock walls. Her heart was thumping with
fear. At last she found a gray metal door and yanked it open.
Inside was a ladder. Glancing back over her shoulder, she climbed
swiftly up the long, narrow shaft and, at the top, pulled herself
out into a moonless night. Breathing hard, she stared at three men
who were sitting around a campfire, talking in Russian...As gunfire
faded in the distance, she crouched with the trio, her powerful
Kalashnikov rifle cradled in her arms. She did not smile. There was
no need. These men did not smile. They were hard and seasoned. She
was one of them."
Within the select genre of espionage thrillers, the masters of the
game are legendary names --- John Le Carre, Len Deighton, Robert
Ludlum --- and for decades they've dominated one of the last
remaining all-male clubs in fiction. With the release of her latest
novel MESMERIZED, Gayle Lynds has firmly established herself as a
strong female voice in this formerly male-dominated world.
MESMERIZED explodes into action in the first few pages with the
near death of a rising star in the Washington legal profession,
Beth Convey, who is given back her life with an emergency heart
transplant. To her dismay, she's the recipient of more than just a
second chance at life when her new heart becomes a source of
frightening dreams and inexplicable behaviors. Pursuing the
discovery that her donor was a former KGB agent that took asylum in
the United States, she stumbles into the cross hairs of another
ex-KGB general plotting a terrorist attack to restore Russia to
it's former Cold War status. The broad scope of his maniacal plan
and the depth of infiltration reaches into the highest levels of
both American and Russian political and financial
Simultaneously, Jeff Hammond, a reporter for the Washington
Post, has been coming closer to uncovering the true activities
of General Alexei Berianov and his compatriots --- a belief he's
followed doggedly for the past 10 years --- and inevitably he finds
his own investigation entangled with that of Beth Convey.
Terminated from the ranks of the FBI years ago, Hammond finds
himself under suspicion as a mole by the very people he once
considered his friends and cohorts. As the evidence piles up
against him, and the overlapping circles of undercover operations
begin to erupt in a series of murders, Beth finds herself trapped
in the dangerous complexities of international espionage. With both
of their lives in jeopardy from Russian and American conspirators,
Beth and Jeff form an uneasy alliance while trying to sort out just
who they can trust.
An interesting twist to the usual espionage suspense is the
intriguing true life medical theory that Lynds introduces through
her character Beth Convey. Following the heart transplant, Beth
finds she's experiencing what appear to be memories and emotions
transferred to her psyche from her unwitting KGB donor, which
engage her in a struggle for control of her thoughts and actions.
Detailed descriptions of the theoretical capabilities of the human
heart to embody characteristics that were once believed to be the
sole domain of the brain are fluidly integrated with the other
elements of the plot. Lynds follows up on this very real phenomena
in her Author's Notes at the end of the book, with references to
publications that can offer readers even more insight. Whether or
not readers accept the premise as having substance in reality,
there's no question that it provides a fascinating substory.
Gayle Lynds's diverse credentials and uncanny sense of the
undercurrents in the counterintelligence community lend a
heightened reality to a storyline that already paralleled recent
events at it's publication. Americans content to believe the Cold
War has become ancient history will find her fictional account of
the rumors that persist regarding the KGB and the FBI a chilling
reminder that the average citizen rarely knows what's currently
transpiring in the shadowy recesses of our government agencies.
MESMERIZED is definitely this summer's hottest espionage thriller,
one that's going to result in a couple of long, suspense-filled
nights for Lynds's readers.
Reviewed by Ann Bruns on January 22, 2011