Assassin’s Game, by Ward Larsen. Forge. 384 pages. Hardcover $25.99.
This sophisticated espionage thriller brings back into print Mossad operative David Slaton, who first appeared in Mr. Larsen’s well-received “The Perfect Assassin” (2008). Slaton is a specialist. He is a “kidon,” an assassin, in Israel’s greatly feared security force. The assignment he receives follows upon two failures by Mossad operatives to assassinate an important target – the man in charge of Iran’s nuclear weapon program. He does not take this assignment willingly.
The novel opens with David retired and living a new life as Edmund Deadmarch. Married to Dr. Christine Palmer, he seems happy with their quiet life in Northern Virginia where he works (or perhaps exercises) lifting and placing large rocks for a landscape contractor. Suddenly, Deadmarch receives a message on his phone, quits and takes off.
We find Christine at a medical conference in Stockholm, where she is suddenly confronted in a café near her hotel by a man from David’s Mossad past – a man named Anton Bloch. Though supposedly the Mossad was out of their lives, something has changed. Bloch tells Christine that he had been ordered to manipulate a situation to force David back into the game. He points to a nearby threat – foreign operatives ready to abduct her – and gives her instructions for escape. Christine flees for her life.
This threat, perhaps actually the Mossad scheme to make David do its bidding, does bring him back into action. We learn that there is a leak in the Mossad hierarchy that is probably responsible for the failed assassination attempts (with consequent personnel losses). A skilled, savvy outsider is needed to run an independent attack on the Iranian nuclear weapons mastermind, Dr. Hamedi.
So, when David – as Edmund Deadmarch – arrives in Stockholm, he has two concerns: protecting his wife and performing the assassination. When he learns that Mossad has taken Christine, his maneuverings to rescue her involve mayhem in the area near the Strand Hotel where she is staying. This bloody mess, brilliantly described, brings aging Inspector Arne Sanderson into the case.
From here on, “Assassin’s Game” develops with suspense-packed clockwork precision. Mr. Larsen strategically shifts the reader’s perspective by following, alternately, David, Christine, Sanderson, Hamedi, and Behrouz – the Iranian security chief who must protect Hamedi. Their separate activities, thoughts, and connections with sharply drawn function characters are all part of a race to the success or failure of David’s mission and his marriage.
Hamedi will be speaking, under heavy guard, at an important meeting in Geneva. That meeting provides David’s opportunity. Timing is everything. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 3, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 4 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here Florida Weekly – Assassin’s Game