Deception License
by R.J. Red
Cosmo Publishing

"He cautiously looked around when he was out and walked around his car as if he was checking the tires. But just then, a remote-controlled bomb placed under his car exploded. He died on the spot."

Multiple geopolitical agendas are at play in this international thriller that zigzags across borders. Russia and Turkey are the principal locales with action spilling into the United States, Azerbaijan, Syria, and more. As players pinball from one nation to another, state secrets are purloined, agents are bought and paid for by more than one side, and corpses begin to pile up from one country to the next.

At the heart of this tale of global intrigue is the story of Galina. She’s a young Russian girl coming of age as the Soviet Union is coming apart. So, too, is her dysfunctional family, led by a violent father and a long-suffering mother. Not surprisingly, Galina grows up with virtually no self-esteem. To escape from a debilitating home life, she sets out on her own and spends much of her time going from one promiscuous relationship to another, hoping to find some sense of permanence. A friend takes her to a psychoanalyst who tries to impart a number of life lessons to Galina. She later attempts to put those lessons to use in the employ of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

Soon Galina is applying her skills of subtlety, subterfuge, strategy, and seduction as she secures secrets from compromised sources while swapping less-than-important information that one side wants the other to have. In and out of various beds she goes, sometimes with a mark, sometimes with the agent she’s actually falling in love with, and sometimes even for assassination. Supporting characters play an active role in Galina’s chronicle. Supportive agents help her progress in the organization while incompetent ones make her job more difficult. There are those who fall under her spell and disclose all sorts of things they shouldn’t. There’s even one agent she wants to have a child with.

Red tells this story from a third-person omnipotent point of view. He also employs an interesting technique to lend support to various plot points plus his characters’ behavior. Throughout the narrative, Red occasionally drops in quotations from individuals such as German social psychologist Erich Fromm, Italian dramatist and poet Vittorio Alfieri, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Austrian neurologist and the father of modern psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, American essayist Henry David Thoreau, and more. These extracts, some even from the ancient Greeks like Socrates and Demosthenes, bracket both exposition and action. They lend a sense of authority to what is happening and why. These scholarly inclusions are unfortunately not matched by the book’s prose, however. An abundance of grammatical errors and strange word juxtaposition slows both pace and comprehension.

The tone and subject matter of this work is very much in the vein of classic spy tales by such novelists as Graham Greene and Robert Ludlum. It’s also somewhat reminiscent of The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carré via the aspect of an idealistic young woman caught in conflicting loyalties and intrigue beyond her control. If tales of international espionage are your cup of tea, this romp among Russian spies may add a bit of spice to your Earl Grey.

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