Fans of espionage novels know Gayle Lynds primarily for her
excellent collaborative work with the late Robert Ludlum on the
Covert One series of novels, such as THE HADES FACTOR and THE
ALTMAN CODE. She is also a novelist in her own right, with her
latest work THE COIL being her fourth solo novel. THE COIL stays
firmly ensconced in the espionage genre and, while flawed in spots,
is ultimately an entertaining and engrossing work.
THE COIL features the return of Liz Sansborough, first introduced
in MASQUERADE, Lynds's debut novel. Sansborough is a former CIA
agent who has left that life behind, thoroughly satisfied with her
quiet but fulfilling existence as a college professor in Santa
Barbara. She also quietly lives with the knowledge that her
deceased father was a Cold War assassin known as The Carnivore.
Sansborough's past and heritage violently intrude into her life
when she is attacked and almost killed for no apparent reason.
Sansborough's cousin, Sarah Walker, is almost simultaneously
kidnapped in Paris in an incident that leaves her husband, CIA
Agent Asher Flores, seriously wounded.
The catalyst behind these actions is the existence of files that
The Carnivore apparently kept on his employers. Someone is using
the information contained in these files to blackmail influential
figures and guide their actions toward a secret agenda. The
kidnappers want the files in exchange for Walker. Sansborough,
meanwhile, has had no idea that her father kept such files and must
somehow locate them in order to save her cousin, as well as
herself. She finds herself caught between the kidnappers and the
blackmailer, who has no intention of giving up the files.
With great reluctance, she returns to the shadowy life of the
secret agent, chasing across Europe in an effort to rescue her
cousin and uncover the secret behind the files and the blackmailer.
Her pursuit leads her to the Coil, a secretive group that quietly
influences world events and whose very existence is threatened by
the blackmailer --- who is one of their own.
THE COIL is a great novel, although it might have been even better
with a couple of modifications. Things get slightly complex here,
even for a novel of this genre. Conspiracy novels are, by their
nature, complicated, but Lynds occasionally becomes just a bit too
clever. There is so much duplicity going around that by the final
third of the book one begins to hear, if not see, the gears and
pulleys that are supposed to stay hidden, out of sight, behind the
curtain. The biggest problem, however, is the heroine herself, who
seems more inclined to internally debate whether to pick up a gun
and defend herself or join hands with her enemy and sing "Kumbaya."
Such debates are better reserved for the abstract, as opposed to
the field --- think of James Bond, tied up with a laser beam moving
slowly toward his groin, wondering whether laying down his sword
would make the world a better place. You get the idea. Aside from
straining credibility, these debates, which bypass conflict and
head into the land of self-absorption, tend to break up the flow of
the narrative and, hence, interrupt the story.
If we should see more of Sansborough in the future, it will
hopefully be without the internal baggage. I doubt I'm really
giving anything away by revealing that since Sansborough is alive
and reasonably happy by the end of THE COIL, she ultimately chooses
the course of affirmative self-defense rather than talking her
adversaries to death. Notwithstanding these points, however, THE
COIL is a worthwhile read from a writer who continues to improve
with each novel.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 11, 2011