This is a fast-paced, intelligent, and well-written novel about one troubled CIA spy tracking down a vicious terrorist, and his handlers, who see his assignment in another, more cynical light. The spy is Pablo da Silva, a talented, multilingual agent able to move easily across borders and through various cultures and strata of society. As we first see him, he is exiled in a remote assignment after a misadventure that left two victims and ruined his reputation. His agency recalls him to Langley because of his unique background and talents and, despite doubts about his fitness, assigns him to help the FBI investigate a murder that may be linked to terrorist activity. This he does, and winds up in a shootout with a suspect in San Diego in which he does not distinguish himself but does obtain valuable evidence. The evidence suggests a link to a notorious American-born jihadist responsible for several terrorist bombings. His name is Billy Foster, but he has countless Arabic aliases.
Da Silva's agency boss then gives him what seems the impossible task of finding Foster. Foster has long been operating successfully from deep cover and may be hiding anywhere. Da Silva is to perform his mission alone, using his own devices and contacts, starting with scant evidence. He narrows the search to Western Europe, and follows leads from England to Switzerland, Germany, France, and Belgium. The author evokes the shape and atmosphere of these places with considerable skill. This reader found the European locations considerably more interesting to read about than Virginia, Washington, DC, or San Diego (even with a side trip to Tijuana), and make the second half of the book more colorful than the first.
Does da Silva find Foster?
If he does, does he survive the meeting?
You'll have to read the book to find out. They say the fun is in the journey, not the destination, but without giving away the conclusion, it's safe to say that da Silva finds himself in another tight situation in which his fitness is tested.
Many chapters are written from viewpoints other than da Silva's, notably those of his immediate supervisor, and provide insight into the dubious machinations of folks who run the counterintelligence show and manipulate their players like puppets. While da Silva sees himself as a hunter seeking prey, the front office is using him as bait. The disparity raises the question of what is right and wrong in pursuing the bad guy. Our sympathies are probably with the spy, but that may be to our detriment.