Rawls keeps the plot briskly moving with neatly choreographed action scenes, from physical fights to airborne warfare. There's little gratuitous violence, and the tone is lightly humorous: a subplot finds a pair of semi-competent CIA agents stumbling onto Rampart's activities, and Briggs's colleagues find an amusing way to misdirect them. Rawls crafts running jokes about the donuts at Rampart staff meeting and how Briggs's fellow agents assume Kovalev, a woman, must be a man. Occasionally, some plot points strain credulity or edge toward the stereotypical, but the story zips along with no lulls.
Best of all are the characters, more three-dimensional than usually found in spy thrillers. Especially vivid is Briggs herself, a refreshingly modern feminine take on James Bond. She enjoys the casual relationships that have long been the prerogative of male action heroes and even finds time for flirtations in the middle of her investigations, while she and Anya humorously discuss how hard it is to keep a boyfriend without revealing their double life as super spies. And she always has time to soothe her worried mother, with increasingly elaborate lies explaining why she can't talk right now, even while she's saving the world from a nuclear holocaust. The always engaging Briggs paired with the lean plot will grab readers and keep them looking forward to further adventures.
Takeaway: Fans of spy actioners will revel in this swift-moving adventure and its delightful heroine.
Great for fans of: Stella Rimington, Ian Fleming, Rosalie Knecht’s Who is Laura Kelly?.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-