The Mercenary by Paul Vidich #BookReview #BlogTour

From acclaimed spy novelist Paul Vidich comes a taut new thriller following the attempted exfiltration of a KGB officer from the ever-changing—and always dangerous—USSR in the mid-1980s.

Moscow, 1985. The Soviet Union and its communist regime are in the last stages of decline, but remain opaque to the rest of the world-and still very dangerous.

In this ever-shifting landscape, a senior KGB officer-code name GAMBIT-has approached the CIA Moscow Station chief with top secret military weapons intelligence and asked to be exfiltrated. GAMBIT demands that his handler be a former CIA officer, Alex Garin, a former KGB officer who defected to the American side.

The CIA had never successfully exfiltrated a KGB officer from Moscow, and the top brass do not trust Garin. But they have no other options: GAMBIT's secrets could be the deciding factor in the Cold War.Garin is able to gain the trust of GAMBIT, but remains an enigma.

Is he a mercenary acting in self-interest or are there deeper secrets from his past that would explain where his loyalties truly lie?

As the date nears for GAMBIT's exfiltration, and with the walls closing in on both of them, Garin begins a relationship with a Russian agent and sets into motion a plan that could compromise everything.

I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Mercenary today. Many thanks to Paul Vidich, No Exit Press and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Last year I thoroughly enjoyed reading Paul Vidich's previous spy thriller, The Coldest Warrior and have been looking forward to The Mercenary with eager anticipation. This time he explores a later period in the Cold War; the Soviet Union is on the brink of change with an ailing Chernenko on the brink of death and Mikhail Gorbachev waiting to assume his historical mantle.
The fading Russian bear is perhaps as dangerous as ever however, and the opaque world of spies is captured with breathtaking intensity. The book opens with a suspenseful attempt to exfiltrate a valuable Soviet asset but when it doesn't succeed, the senior KGB officer known only as GAMBIT insists that his new handler should be Aleks Garin, a former defector himself. From the start, Garin is an enigma - not American but not Russian either and with a complex, murky history which means his return to Moscow is personally risky for him should he be recognised. 
Paul Vidich's atmospheric descriptions of the frigid Russian landscape immerse the reader in a storyline which is as much a perceptive exploration of the psychological impact of espionage as it is a tautly plotted battle of wills between the CIA and KGB. Garin's own past, most notably his failure to secure the release of another Soviet defector, means nobody is sure whether he can be trusted. This ambiguity makes him an engaging protagonist, especially when he becomes increasingly drawn to former ballerina-turned-Russian-agent, Natalya. She is equally as fascinating - and untrustworthy - especially when she reveals her own complicated past
With both sides falling victim to double-crossing treachery, Garin's perilous mission to exfiltrate not just GAMBIT but also his wife and young son looks doomed to almost certain catastrophe. The latter chapters of The Mercenary become a tense, high-stakes race to the border in this poignantly cynical thriller which recognises that when we,
"shed espionage of its popular mythology, the spy's job is to lie, deceive and betray trust." 
There are plenty of nail-biting dramatic scenes to keep action fans happy in an intriguing storyline that twists and turns towards its heart-pounding conclusion but Paul Vidich's vividly evocative novel is also a moving, rather melancholy exploration of what is ultimately a profoundly lonely way of life. Meticulously researched, with insightful characterisation and a superb sense of time and place, The Mercenary is a riveting, propulsive thriller. I highly recommend it.

The Mercenary is published by No Exit Press, purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookstores whenever possible.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Paul Vidich has had a distinguished career in music and media. Most recently, he served as Special Advisor to AOL and was Executive Vice President at the Warner Music Group, in charge of technology and global strategy. He serves on the Board of Directors of Poets & Writers and The New School for Social Research. A founder and publisher of the Storyville App, Vidich is also an award-winning author of short fiction. His novels, An Honorable Man, The Good Assassin and The Coldest Warrior, are available from No Exit Press.


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