A Book Spy Review: ‘Moscow X’ by David McCloskey


Following his highly-praised debut novel, Demascus Station, author David McCloskey returns for another cat-and-mouse espionage thriller written in the same vein as genre classics The Russia House (John le Carre, 1989) and Red Sparrow (Jason Matthews, 2013).

Set following the events of last year’s book, CIA officers Sia and Max are sent to Russia for the purpose of getting close to the man Vladimir Putin trusts with his money. That plan is first hatched by a CIA station chief in Tajikistan, who believes it may be the only way to disrupt and counter Putin and whatever plans he may be breathing life into. It’s a daring operation that, if successful, could cause chaos throughout the Kremlin, but getting close to the moneyman won’t be easy, a complicated task that becomes infinitely more laborious when another deep-cover agent comes into play.

As fate would have it, after making contact with their mark, Sia and Max quickly realize that their greatest chance of succeeding is through the banker’s wife, Anna. What they don’t know, though, and quickly becomes news to the CIA, is that Anna is actually a deep-cover Russian intelligence agent assigned to the bank. She has her own game to play, and as each party attempts to carry out their mission, McCloskey takes readers on a wild adventure that explores themes such as loyalty, truth, and vengeance, all while painting the raw picture of life as a spy that’s woven into a brilliant, complex plot that moves from Mexico to Langley to Moscow with a level of authority and confidence that is simply unmatched by anyone else in the genre today.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced action thriller, Moscow X is definitely not that. Readers need to know that upfront because McCloskey’s work should be appreciated for what it is—an elegant, masterfully written tale of espionage told by someone who knows what that world should look like, and knows how to deliver. Plenty of writers with a background in CIA have tried their hand at a career as a novelist (Mark Henshaw and I.S. Berry are two other good ones), but the vast majority have failed to adequately capture the life they supposedly have intimate knowledge about on the page in a way that resembles anything close to riveting. Here, much like a painter who can place the image from their head onto a blank canvas, McCloskey brings his universe and world to life in a way that’s both inviting and informative. And while it can be a bit tedious to get into the meat of the story at first, given all the locations, analysis, and info that is thrown out to set the stage for the main course, the story does reach another gear once all the players are established, and the spy games commence.

A modern-day John le Carre, former CIA analyst turned celebrated author David McCloskey is the most exciting spy novelist to come along since Daniel Silva, and Moscow X, which should be required reading for anyone claiming to be a fan of espionage, is a breathless, heart-pounding adventure that reads as authentic as anything else in print today.

Book Details

Author: David McCloskey
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1324050756
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: October 3, 2023



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, comes out on August 8th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. And to take part in free, exclusive BOOK CLUBS each month, join The Real Book Spy on Discord.


Facebook Comments