The thing I love about the First Team novels by Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice is that they keep you on your toes. Never do the stories they tell unfold as you would expect them to and 'Soul of the Assassin' (a terrible title that should be ignored) is no different.
For those not familiar with First Team, they are a direct action unit of the CIA led by the enigmatic Bob Ferguson. SotA is their fourth adventure and finds the team despatched to Italy in pursuit of an assassin known only by his/her nom du guerre of T-Rex. What unfolds from that starting point however, is not as straightforward as either they or most readers would expect.
After a disappointing third book in the series, SotA is a real return to form for the First Team. For those thinking that the cheesy title and co-authored nature of the books means they're just cheapo airport thrillers written to cash in on Larry Bond's name you're wrong. They are well conceived, well written, punchy and surprisingly intelligent efforts that try to do something far more original than you average espionage thriller.
As with previous efforts that difference is to spin the story off in unpredictable directions that seem to more accurately reflect how a real intelligence operation might evolve. This is not a hunt bad guy, find bad guy, kill bad guy story. What starts out as the hunt for a killer turns into something far more complex, and along the way the First Team make mistakes, follow bad leads and often find themselves making it up on the hoof. It is this that gives the books their unique feel.
Combine that with primary and supporting characters who are well conceived & interesting, well written action and pacing that only flags a couple of times and quickly picks up again and you have a highly enjoyable spy thriller. I will look forward to First Team's next adventure.