Title: The Cutout
Author: Francine Mathews
Mathews, Francine (2001). The Cutout. New York: Bantam Books
LCCN: PS3563.A8357 C88 2001
Date Posted: April 19, 2017
A near-miss thriller about spies coming in from the cold—le Carré American-style.
Eric Carmichael, one of the CIA’s brightest and best is, as everybody knows, dead. Wife Caroline, still a highly valued CIA analyst, has mourned him for two years, ever since Med Air 901 exploded in mid-flight, killing Eric and 257 others. A fanatical group of neo-Fascists named 30 April wasted no time claiming responsibility, and now this very same group has blown up Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where American Vice President Sarah Payne was making a speech, and kidnapped the VP. Payne will be held hostage to forestall US interference with 30 April’s master plan to Nazify Central Europe. CIA analysts, studying videotape, note the ruthless efficiency of the bomb-and-kidnap operation; Caroline Carmichael notes something else entirely: Among the terrorists, seemingly directing them, is her far-from-dead husband. How? Why? If he’s not a mirage is he, perhaps, in deep cover? But that would mean her lover and best friend had knowingly doomed her to two grief-stricken years. True, Caroline is aware of how much Eric hated the monstrous Mlan Krucivik, founder and leader of 30 April, and how much her husband was prepared to risk to destroy him. While still racked by doubt and indecision, she becomes convinced that there’s a play within a play, that among her CIA colleagues a mole-like puppet-master has been secretly pulling strings. But before finding him, and Eric, Carline must strip Krucivick of his leverage by locating and saving the vice president—and that’s just for starters.
Mathews, a former CIA intelligence analyst and veteran mystery author (Death in a Cold Hard Light, 1998, etc.), writes well, and the story benefits from her savvy about spycraft. Her strong characters, though, ultimately get swamped by all the spook-y details.