The Right Hand introduces us to CIA agent Austin Clay, who has reputation for always completing his mission. He's used to working independently and on only the most secret of assignments. This level of self-reliance has made him a deadly force.
In a post-9/11 world, public eyes are on the Mideast, al-Qaeda, and Afghanistan, but Derek Haas reminds us that the U.S. government still keeps tabs on the old Soviet Union. When one of our agents in St. Petersburg goes missing, Clay is sent to retrieve him. Within hours of his landing in Russia, it's clear that this is anything but a straightforward search-and-rescue operation. Instead, Clay has entered a dangerous game of double agents and moles, betrayals and treason.
Although I'm not usually a fan of espionage novels, Haas won me over on several interlinked levels, especially the characters and the structure of the novel. Haas is a master at the slow reveal, which allows the tension in The Right Hand to grow in increments. The principal focus is on Clay, but we're also privy to other characters' points of view, which gives us a broader perspective on the situation and keeps us guessing.
Austin Clay is not quite your typical 1950s spy, and he certainly doesn't have a girlfriend in every capital city around the world. He's used to being totally on his own and has no qualms about killing, both in self-defense and to hide his trail. Yet, despite his violent streak, he has a sense of humor and also has the ability to empathize with others. It's true he has an almost superhero knack for getting out of scrapes, but isn't that the way it is for all the really good spies?
Derek Haas's The Right Hand is an action-packed thriller that takes cold war espionage into the twenty-first century. The Soviet Union may be dissolved, but the United States and Russia are hardly bosom buddies, and Austin Clay has the skills and resourcefulness to navigate the dark recesses of the spy's world. I hope Haas has more Clay stories to tell.
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Published by Little, Brown / Mulholland Books, 2012
Source: Review (see review policy)
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