Friday, June 30, 2006

Caroline Carmichael, Francine Mathews's CIA analyst protagonist, is an unusual combination of insider expertise and over-the-top violence and paranoia. Mathews's own career as a CIA analyst is obviously the source of her great store of intelligence tradecraft. But where did the other stuff come from? A fertile imagination, one hopes - plus the enviable ability to turn Carmichael loose in an environment that has often been abused and overused, but made totally believable and exciting here by the author's top notch narrative skills.
When a neo-Nazi terrorist group called the 30 April Organization -- believed to be out of business -- suddenly reappears, the close-to-burnout Caroline tears up her letter of resignation to take on this old enemy. She also wants to protect her husband, Eric - who infiltrated 30 April and now has had his cover blown. There's plenty of death and destruction as the terrorists take the world stage with a vengeance, and Mathews makes it all impossible not to gasp at. She also makes Carmichael such a complicated and real person that we never doubt her existence for a moment.