Publisher: Sphere (Trade Paperback Edition – 26 February 2019)
Series: Gray Man – Book 8
Length: 513 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Bestselling author Mark Greaney returns with another entertaining and fast-paced instalment in his enjoyable Gray Man spy thriller series.
Court Gentry used to be a ruthless covert assassin known as the Gray Man, a highly skilled killer considered a legend in the clandestine circles. However, times change, and Gentry now finds gainful employment as a CIA hitter, one of three elite agents that make up the Agency’s super-secret Poison Apple program. Going under a new codename, Violator, Gentry is redirected aboard a CIA flight in Europe. Tensions rise when the plane’s other passengers, a team of heavily armed agents, attempt to remove Gentry from the flight in order to protect their prize, a hooded man who may have knowledge that could identify a mole within the CIA.
Allowed to remain on the plane, Gentry finds himself thrust into the middle of a firefight when the plane lands in England. A team of mercenaries ambush the plane, overcoming the CIA and MI6 agents waiting to meet the flight and taking the kidnapped man for themselves. Gentry gives chase to the surviving mercenaries to regain the kidnapped man and soon finds himself investigating the case by himself.
As Gentry attempts to uncover what is going on in England, one of Poison Apple’s other operatives, the former Russian agent Zoya Zakharova, finds herself under attack in her CIA safe house. With Zoya going off the radar, Gentry’s handlers are convinced that a mole within the CIA is tipping of a dangerous opponent. Gentry and his team are soon the only agents who can stop a devastating attack that could bring the West to its knees.
Mark Greaney is a highly regarded spy thriller writer who has some substantial works to his name. He was Tom Clancy’s co-author for legendary espionage author’s final three books, Locked On, Threat Vector and Command Authority. Following Clancy’s death in 2013, Greaney continued to write an additional four novels in Clancy’s Jack Ryan Universe. Aside from the books he wrote with Clancy, Greaney has his own series, the bestselling Gray Man series, which started in 2009 with the author’s debut book, The Gray Man. Mission Critical is the eighth book in the Gray Man series.
This was an incredibly thrilling story which contains hell of a lot of action and espionage. I really liked the sound of Mission Critical’s plot synopsis and was glad that I picked up a copy of this book, as the action and intrigue did not stop the entire time. At over 500 pages long, I was worried that this might drag in some places, but I found myself fairly absorbed by the awesome plot and sufficiently pumped up by the huge number of firefights, close combat sequences and high-speed chases.
I loved the spy thriller storyline that was a prominent part of Mission Critical. Greaney weaves together a number of plotlines to create a fantastic overall spy thriller narrative. Because Mission Critical is told from a number of perspectives, including those of the protagonists and antagonists, the reader gets a great idea of all the action, spycraft and dirty tricks that both sides employ to complete their respective missions. Greaney obviously has a large amount of knowledge about the espionage world, and I loved all his depictions about the inner workings of spy agencies, rogue operatives and the various tricks and techniques that agents employ. I also liked Greaney’s depiction of the inner politics of the CIA and how that might impact on missions and the distribution of resources, as well as a look at the CIA’s relationship with other countries’ intelligence agencies.
I really liked some of the characters featured within this book. The protagonist, Court Gentry (and I have to point out how much I love that name), is a solid and dependable badass agent to anchor this series. He’s your typical thriller protagonist, with some badass skills and a reputation to match. I loved his anti-authoritarian vibe, and I also quite enjoyed how he actually got his ass handed to him multiple times throughout the book, rather than being unbeatable in every encounter. I was also impressed that Greaney kept showing him being slowed down by his injuries, rather than having him at 100% for every encounter like some other authors do. Zoya is also a good protagonist for this story; let’s face it, a sexy Russian agent never goes amiss in a spy thriller. The author dives into this character’s background quite a bit in Mission Critical, and her connections to the plot and the antagonists were explored in an intriguing manner. The third Poison Apple operative, Zack Hightower, aka Romantic, was used a little less than his comrades, but he was a fun addition to the team, adding some humour to the story, especially when it came to his codename, as well as some complex history and camaraderie with Gentry. The Poison Apple program handler, Suzanne Brewer, also adds some great things to the story. A career-orientated CIA administrator, she has to try and play straight-woman to the three anti-authority, disrespectful operatives that are under her command. The fact that she does not want to be working with these people and is at times actively sabotaging them to try and get a different posting adds some really intriguing elements to the story, and I liked watching her work against her agents for her own selfish ends.
Mission Critical is the eighth book in Greaney’s Gray Man series. While this latest entry does feature a number of characters from the previous books in the series, readers are not required to have read any of the previous books to enjoy this story. I felt that Greaney did an excellent job of explaining any elements from the previous entries in the series that become relevant throughout Mission Critical. Fans of the Gray Man series will probably really enjoy the deeper examination of Zoya’s history and backstory, as well as her inclusion in the other Poison Apple agent’s operations.
Overall, Mission Critical was a deeply entertaining espionage novel that is bound to keep readers absorbed with its excellent action and thriller elements. It is easily enjoyable for both existing fans of the franchise and new readers alike. I had a lot of fun reading this book and I powered through all 500+ pages in fairly short order. I am planning to keep an eye out for Greaney’s next book, Red Metal, a really cool-sounding war thriller that is coming out in July this year.