A Book Spy Review: ‘The Last Man in Tehran’ by Mark Henshaw

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The Last man in Tehran.jpgJonathan Burke and Kyra Stryker return for their fourth go-around in The Last Man in Tehran, the latest spy thriller from former CIA analyst Mark Henshaw.

Kyra Stryker is now the head of the CIA’s Red Cell, but her run as chief starts with a bang when a dirty bomb kills many in the Port of Haifa in Israel. The Haifa attack essentially throws a light match on the gasoline-soaked Middle East. Tension had already been running high, and this was exactly the last thing Israel needed. Chaos ensues, welcoming Stryker to her new position, as the Mossad — Israel’s vaunted foreign intelligence service — takes matters of revenge into their own hands.

Kathryn Cooke, the former CIA director and Kyra’s mentor, informs Stryker that Majid Salehi is the active head of Iran’s nuclear weapon program. The man told her himself, swearing that it was not Iran who carried out the dirty bomb attack.  A short while later, Stryker discovers that the Mossad is planning to assassinate Salehi when the Iranians continue their discussions with American officials about Iran’s nuclear program. The only logical explanation for Israel’s newfound intel is that the CIA has a mole within its ranks, and to find them, Stryker calls upon her former boss and Red Cell leader Jonathan Burke (Cooke’s husband) to flush them out. 

Both main characters, Stryker and Burke, are in new positions here. Kyra, of course, was the operative brought in and tasked to the Red Cell unit in Henshaw’s first book. She carries the bulk of the story, though the author does a nice job getting Burke involved organically when he’s approached by the chief of the Mossad, who feels the American president is holding out information on them. The two plotlines merge as one, and while there is plenty of suspense, there is very little action. . . 

From a details perspective, Henshaw, a former analyst with the CIA, is second to none. He obviously knows his stuff and brings realism to the page in a way that other writers whiff on. His characters are well developed, and though this is the fourth book in his series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

All that said, some readers may find Henshaw’s take on things a tad against the grain. Guys like Daniel Silva, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and Ben Coes have made a living by writing about characters who, in this scenario, would probably be helping to kill the head of Iran’s nuclear program — portraying their characters as sympathetic to a small country unwilling to leave their fate in the hands of America or anyone else. Henshaw, clearly, goes the other way.

Also, while fans may initially welcome Stryker’s promotion, it does in some ways mean that she should be chained to a desk. Not to name-drop Daniel Silva again, but Henshaw runs into a similar problem that Silva has addressed with his character, Gabriel Allon, finally being promoted to head of the Mossad in his series. When you take an operator out of the field, it’s a whole lot harder to write a gripping thriller and give readers what they hope to see from the characters. For that reason, The Last Man in Tehran is much less thriller and reads more like a classic espionage novel. 

All in all, The Last Man in Tehran is another solid Red Cell novel from Mark Henshaw, and it’ll be very interesting to see how he advances his characters moving forward. 

Book Details

Author: Mark Henshaw 
Series: Jonathan Burke/Kyra Stryker Thriller
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501161261
Publisher: Touchstone
Release Date: December 26, 2017
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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