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AP Rawls
The Dark Tetrad
AP Rawls, author

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Publish)

In this action-packed Kori Briggs debut novel, Kori is on the trail of a madman who has managed to steal a hundred pounds of uranium and, with the help of an equally twisted Russian scientist, is intent on detonating a nuclear bomb somewhere in the world. But when and where? It's a vicarious thrill ride as Kori follows clues from Washington, DC to New York City, Russia, Israel, and finally, Paris, the “City of Lights.”
A team of elite agents battles a mad genius in this lively feminist take on the international spy thriller subgenre. Kori Briggs works for the mysterious "Rampart" agency, which comes up against an opponent that has succeeded in building a nuclear bomb. Briggs must race to uncover her target, as well as a possible traitor in their midst, as she pairs up with her Russian counterpart Anya Kovalev on a globe-crossing adventure that moves from Tel Aviv, to Paris, and more. Meanwhile, she has to manage a romantic relationship—and an overly solicitous mother who thinks her daughter is a business executive.

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?.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-