“The Right Hand” by Derek Haas (Mulholland Books, $25.99)
The spy novel continues to thrive because authors continue to find new and very contemporary ways of exploring the intrigue and subterfuge that keeps countries on edge with each other.
Screenwriter and novelist Derek Haas confidently strides into espionage with his adrenaline rush “The Right Hand.” A lean, no-nonsense plot starts on a high arc as “The Right Hand” swiftly progresses to its plausible, and quite poignant, finale. Haas brings the same sense of non-stop action, high drama and character studies that he brings to the hit NBC series “Chicago Fire,” for which he is a scriptwriter, and to the 2007 Russell Crowe film “3:10 to Yuma.”
“The Right Hand” is Austin Clay, an undercover agent in the CIA whose missions are so secret that even his bosses don’t acknowledge them. Or him. The job suits this loner well as Austin prefers to live like “a ghost,” unseen, unknown and uninvolved with those he meets. During the last three years as a “black ops” agent, his team has consisted of “exactly two members, his handler and himself.”
Austin is sent to find a missing American operative who was captured in the Russian countryside. But the missing agent is only the beginning of a conspiracy that has infiltrated the U.S. government. Austin fights off Russian hit men and tries to protect an innocent young Hungarian woman while trying to find out who is betraying who, and why.
Haas’ cinematic background well serves “The Right Hand,” which seems tailor-made for the movies. The vigorous pace never slows as Haas’ sparse prose propels the plot that crisscrosses Europe. Haas introduces just enough spycraft to add intrigue, but never to overwhelm his story.
In Austin Clay, Haas has created a credible action hero whose flaws show he still has a conscience, despite the often unsavory situations in which he’s involved. “The Right Hand” should just be the beginning of Austin’s adventures.