Featured Review: ‘Mission Critical’ by Mark Greaney

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Mission CriticalMark Greaney (Agent in Place, 2018, etc.) reignites the Cold War in his latest must-read thriller featuring the Gray Man. 

Back with the CIA in an unofficial capacity, Courtland Gentry, better known as the Gray Man, is given orders by his handler, Suzanne Brewer, to return to Washington. As it turns out, an agency plane happens to be in the region, and Court’s able to hitch a ride–but it’s not a direct flight to D.C. Their first stop is in Luxembourg City, where another group of operators boards the Gulfstream IV with a prisoner en route to England.

After touching down at a small airfield in the West Midlands, Court realizes something is off. Though he’s told nothing about the other mission his assignment is piggybacking, he’s able to discern that it’s obviously a prisoner swap. What he doesn’t know is that the armed men lining the secluded runway are MI6 agents tasked with interrogating the prisoner about a possible mole inside of Langley as part of a joint effort with CIA. However, just before the exchange goes down, Gentry catches movement in the distance and his instincts tell him the drop is an ambush, a theory that is quickly confirmed when bullets fly moments later.

When the smoke clears, only Court is still alive, and the prisoner is gone. 

More than 3,500 miles away, former Russian Foreign Intelligence officer Zoya Zakharvoa keeps in shape by working out in the spacious Virginia-based CIA safehouse. Turning her had been a huge win for America’s spy agency and, more specifically, Suzanne Brewer. Not only is Zoya–the daughter of a general who previously served as the head of Russia’s Military Intelligence–a treasure trove of valuable information, she’s also the prized new recruit of a top-secret unit headed up by Brewer and her boss, Deputy Director of Operations Matthew Hanley.

Codenamed Anthem, Zoya is still undergoing a lengthy debriefing when a team of assassins descends upon the safe house, killing her protection detail before coming after her. Instead, she turns the tables by fighting back, wiping out the intruders before slipping off into the night and going on the run, unsure of who she can trust.

In full damage-control mode, Brewer has Gentry go after the prisoner while calling in additional help (in the form of another fan-favorite character) to help identify and press potential traitors within the agency. As things unfold, an all-out mole hunt emerges, and it becomes clear that both sides have been penetrated . . . as each race to plug their leaks before it’s too late. 

Mark Greaney continues to leave his mark on the thriller genre, pumping out another brilliant, hard-hitting thriller with Mission Critical. The Cold War era has long been considered the golden age of spy thrillers, paving the way for John le Carre and others to dominate the genre. Here, Greaney modernizes things, offering a fresh and timely take that reignites the Cold War with a high-stakes plot that’ll appeal to a wide range of readers and fans of everyone from le Carre and Forsyth to Vince Flynn and Daniel Silva. 

While Greaney obviously has a deep understanding of geopolitics, he also has a natural feel for developing characters and certainly knows his way around an action scene. His action sequences are some of the best in print right now, and there’s plenty of firefights, car chases, and explosions in this one. Likewise, it’s impressive to see how far Gentry has come over the course of eight books. He still has the same attitude and plenty of smartass one-liners, but Greaney’s adding new things too, like a potential love interest. It’s all part of the Gray Man’s continued development, and just when you think Greaney’s going to zig, he zags–setting up his next trick. 

Mark Greaney continues his dominant run with Mission Critical, his most impressive novel yet and the clear-cut early favorite for best thriller of the year.

Book Details

Author: Mark Greaney
Series: The Gray Man #8
Pages: 528 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0451488946
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 9, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) 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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