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    Review of THE TRAITOR by Stephen Coonts (see his website)


    St. Martin's Press, June 2006

    CIA agent Tommy Carmellini is just back from too long in Iraq when he's sent to France--along with the beautiful woman he once dated and who now hates him, Sarah Houston. The CIA has learned that French intelligence has a plant high in Al Queda, and they desperately want access. Tommy and Sarah are to play lovers willing to sell out their country in order to get access to French intelligence. Tommy's old boss, Jake Grafton is running the show in Europe--and there's a coming meeting of the G-8 that Al Queda would just love to disrupt or destroy.

    Although Tommy's identity is supposed to be secret, pretty much everyone, from French Intelligence to Israeli Intelligence to Al Queda quickly finds out, and they all seem to be gunning for him. Tommy has to stay quick on his feet and with his fists, as well as fancy with his rented Vespa, to stay ahead of foreign killers. Then there's the woman he drugged back in America who inconveniently shows up.

    With his identity blown, the turning traitor trick doesn't seem likely to work, but Grafton insists on it, and Tommy, along with Sarah, get a chance to test their skills with the polygraph machine. Could Tommy be a sociopath? The story culminates with Tommy battling with evil traitors within Versailles Palace.

    Author Stephen Coonts (see more reviews of novels by Coonts) writes in a breezy and engaging style, slipping seamlessly between first person for the Tommy Carmellini scenes and third person for the others, and making Tommy's problems seem real. The title sums up not just the role Tommy is assigned to play, but also the theme of the book--with betrayal coming from all directions and from all levels.

    Much of the story deals with dealings between supposedly allied intelligence agencies (the CIA and the French DGSE). Coonts rightly reminds us that even allies may have different interests, and may be unwilling to share all of their secrets, or simply be unable to trust their friends. I found some of the adventure to be hard to believe, however, and I guess I didn't buy into why Grafton would send Carmellini to play traitor after his cover was blown. Although it served a purpose in the story, I don't know that it made sense from an intelligence perspective.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 4/10/09

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