(Summer) Trash Lit: Adrenaline


Adrenaline, by Jeff Abbott

Grand Central Publishing, 400 pages, $24.99

There's a CIA agent who has a wife who also works for the CIA, and she's seven months preggers with their kid, and life in the London Station is just dandy. Already a very bad sign: CIA agents with spouses and kids are prime fodder for thriller writers. It never works out. James Bond figured that out early, and since then, everyone else in the genre has fallen in love at his or her peril.

So naturally the wife gets kidnapped (or maybe she's really a double agent) and the London CIA Station is blown up by a bomb that she might have planted (or maybe she didn't) and our hero, agent Sam Capra, gets the full-on spook interrogation treatment, including all manner of fine drugs and devices, to see if he's a traitor, too.

Of course, he's entirely clueless. But by the time the manages to (maybe) convince CIA management that he doesn't know where (or who) his wife is, he realizes it's been nine months and the baby must have been born. So he sets off to find the kid, and the wife along the way, and the guy who either snatched her or hired her.

It's a fun ride. Capra has to pretend he's a smuggler who's ready to steal counterfeit goods from Chinese gangs and reuse their trucks to get some nasty stuff into Great Britain. Much discussion of the modern underworld:

The postmodern criminal networks come together for a particular function -- smuggling in ethnic laborers, muling heorin hidden inside televisions from China that were diverted first to ports in Pakistan, or setting up a train bombing to short-sell a transportation stock price. The cells are small and nimble, and they snap together and break into new shapes, like a child's plane of tank or wall made from little plastic blocks. ... When you cannot break a wall, you can shatter a single brick. I just needed to find the right brick.

In the weak tradition of this year's top thrillers, there's absolutely no sex. But Adrenaline does offer more than the usual amount of shooting, beating, and assorted personal violence:

[I] Found two Glock 9 mms, spare clips, silencers.

"What else do you need?"

"I have to fight a large number of people," I said. "They will be heavily armed and I'll be alone. So I guess I have to kill them all."

You get the picture.

In the end, nothing is as it appears, the whole situation is a masterfully tangled mess that works its way through a string of bars in Europe and winds up with an ending that makes it very clear this is just the start of a Capra series. Don't get too drunk when you read it or you'l lose track; the twists and turns require a little more concentration than the typical beach novel. But that's not a bad thing, and this one goes on my summer list.


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