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The Eighth Sister


The Eighth Sister

Robert Dugoni, the bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police procedural series and several stand-alones, presents his newest protagonist. If you’ve eagerly devoured his previous works for their cinematic pacing, tautly written thrills and wonderfully developed characters, you’re in for all of that and so much more with THE EIGHTH SISTER.

In this series starter, we meet 60-year-old Charles Jenkins, a former CIA agent who now runs his own security company. In the past, Jenkins delighted in tormenting KGB officers in Mexico City, but he has sworn off that life in exchange for a family with his wife Alex, their son CJ and a new baby on the way. Unfortunately, his company is in serious debt, and with his wife suffering from preeclampsia, he is weathering much of the stress on his own.

That all changes when a former agency colleague pays Jenkins a surprise visit and makes him a shocking offer. Jenkins learns that back in the Cold War days, seven Russian girls were raised practically from birth to report to the United States on the KGB and the Kremlin’s doings; they were known to the CIA as the Seven Sisters. Now all in their 60s, these women had no idea the others existed --- but three have turned up dead, and the CIA has reason to believe that Putin has employed an eighth sister who has been tasked with tracking them down and murdering them.

Because Jenkins’ company has an office in Moscow and he is already trained to deal with the KGB (now the FSB), it would be easy to reinstate him just long enough to discover the identity of this eighth sister and report her to the agency. Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees, hoping that it will be an easy case. After all, he has not been assigned with any violence --- he merely has to identify the eighth sister and share her identity with the agency. Of course, nothing is as easy as it seems when international relations are concerned, and Jenkins knows he should be prepared for anything.

"As always, I am blown away by Dugoni’s ability to tackle any genre, any setting and any type of character with any background.... From the start, Dugoni pulls his readers in with an instantly likable yet complex character."

When Jenkins arrives in Russia, he stands out immediately: not only is he a six-foot-tall African American man, his status as a former CIA agent instantly raises red flags. He is well aware that the FSB knows he has entered the country and is no doubt tracking him, but then that is part of the game. His plan is to reveal some highly classified, but not dangerous, information to the first FSB agent to approach him, earn the Kremlin’s trust and hint that he knows the identities of the remaining four sisters. The agency believes that doing so will bring the eighth sister to him --- case closed. But Russia is a contradiction of a country: endlessly patient yet woefully corrupt. Jenkins will have to keep his wits about him if he is to leave Russia alive and with his mission completed.

Everything is going according to plan when Jenkins is approached by Federov, an FSB agent, and his backup, Arkady. The three meet on several occasions, and Jenkins continues to reveal classified but non-essential information slowly, as per orders. But when Federov begins to suspect that Jenkins knows more than he is letting on, their careful alliance is torn, and Jenkins is on the run. He is soon approached by a woman who also claims to work with the CIA, but as the two are sworn from revealing their sources to one another, Jenkins must enter yet another cautious alliance. He and the woman, Anna, escape the FSB narrowly, and Dugoni begins a thrilling game of cat and mouse. The more Jenkins and Anna talk, the more it seems that one or both of them have been set up --- and not by the Russian government. With the FSB on his tail and many lives (including his family’s) at risk, Jenkins is left more or less stranded in Russia with only his decades-old training, his keen eye and some serious espionage potential.

Whenever I pick up one of Dugoni’s books, I know that I will be greeted with a hard-hitting issue that truly feels “ripped from the headlines.” Focusing on international relations between America and Russia, THE EIGHTH SISTER is no different, though Dugoni does a fabulous job of filling in just enough fiction to offer his readers a reprieve from the news. The book is divided into two parts, with the first acting as more of a spy thriller and the second asking about the legality of it all with some hearty courtroom drama. Whether you’re a fan of the Tracy Crosswhite series or enjoyed THE 7th CANON, you definitely will find something to love in THE EIGHTH SISTER, with the thrill of international espionage adding a new element to the mix.

As always, I am blown away by Dugoni’s ability to tackle any genre, any setting and any type of character with any background. It seems like I am exaggerating, I know, but I feel certain that anyone who has read him will back me up. From the start, he pulls his readers in with an instantly likable yet complex character. With Jenkins, his age sets him apart, but adds a nice layer of humanity that I was worried I would miss in transitioning from his Tracy Crosswhite series. At 60 years old, Jenkins is not just an adventurous CIA agent; he has way more on his mind than the Jason Bournes and Jack Ryans of the world.

Surprisingly, I also loved Federov, the book’s relentless villain. With alternating chapters told from his point of view, readers are able to enter a more Russian mindset. Although I was rooting against Federov officially, I loved seeing the chase from his perspective and sort of almost wanted him to catch Jenkins as much as I wanted Jenkins to get away. Confusing though it may sound, my enjoyment of Federov is just another example of Dugoni’s masterful characterizations.

I was also mesmerized by the little details Dugoni employs to keep his settings fresh and realistic. For example, his descriptions of Russian protocol with espionage, bribery and secrecy were all fascinating and decidedly different from what I would expect from similar books set in the United States or other countries. It is clear that Dugoni researched endlessly for THE EIGHTH SISTER, and yet, as I mentioned earlier, it never feels bogged down by too many facts.

All of that said, I will add that this novel seemed a bit more “out there” than your typical Dugoni book. But if you are willing to suspend your disbelief a bit, you will be treated to a truly action-packed, fast-paced and absolutely exhilarating thrill ride --- and, perhaps in Charles Jenkins, your new favorite character.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on April 26, 2019

The Eighth Sister
by Robert Dugoni

  • Publication Date: April 9, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 477 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • ISBN-10: 1503903311
  • ISBN-13: 9781503903319