A twisty, devious plot that would have seemed completely outlandish 30 years ago.

The Night Agent is Matthew Quirk’s sixth novel but the first I’ve read. I think I picked it up in the library because the cover looked interesting – a silhouetted man looking from Washington’s Lincoln Memorial towards the Washington Monument, with the US Capitol building beyond. And there was a cover quote from Michael Connelly: “One of the best thrillers to come along in years.”

The story
FBI agent Peter Sutherland, has spent nearly a year working a night shift in the Situation Room at the White House, doing routine analysis work while sitting beside an emergency phone that hardly ever rings. If anyone does call, he has to immediately pass the information to people far more senior than him.

One night the phone rings and Peter speaks to a terrified young woman who reports a double murder and says the gunman is after her. She passes on a cryptic message: “OSPREY was right. It’s happening.” A combination of boredom and curiosity pushes Peter to find out more, even after he’s handed the call to his superiors. And soon he’s involved in trying to untangle a government-wide conspiracy.

My verdict
It’s difficult to put a finger on why I enjoyed this book so much. It’s a twisty, devious plot that would have seemed outlandish 30-years ago. The Russians are the bad guys, manipulating the news in America for their own ends, and there are moles and double-agents everywhere. There’s also a free-ranging Russian assassin, killing anyone and everyone who might be a threat.

It’s fast-paced but not breathlessly so. Things move at speed because there’s a deadline everyone’s up against, even though most of them don’t realise it. And Peter, the protagonist, is more dependable and worthy than heroic.

I never felt I was getting under the skin of the characters but somehow that didn’t matter. The story still drew me in, the plot pulled me along, and every new twist and turn made it harder to put the book down.

I found The Night Agent immensely readable and because of that I’ll be keeping an eye open for more books by Matthew Quirk. 4 Stars.
Review by: Cornish Eskimo   

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