Ex-CIA analyst David McCloskey burst onto the espionage thriller scene in 2023 with his debut Damascus Station. Set in Syria in the 2010s, Damascus Station managed to walk fine line between between operational jargon, plot and character. McCloskey brings his spook world right up to the present day in Moscow X. Partly anchored by Artemis Procter, the spiky Chief from Damascus Station (who appears in this book’s jaw-dropping cold open), Moscow X is a very different tale of spies, false identities, plots and counter plots.
Internal machinations are afoot in Putin’s Russia when Moscow X opens. A high ranking Putin crony called Gusev, known as the Goose, has made a move on his old rival Agapov, stealing his money in the name of Russia but squirreling it away overseas for his own personal use. Little does Gusev know that the lawyer handling the transaction in London is actually deep cover CIA agent Sia Fox. Agapov’s daughter, Anna is herself in the Russian security service and unhappily married to Putin money-man Vadim. While Anna is trying to work out how to get to Sia, Sia and her handlers are trying to make a play to get to Vadim through a Mexican thoroughbred horse dealer whose family have long associations with the CIA. As the stakes get higher no one is quite sure who is playing who but the danger to Sia, Max and Anna is constant and very real.
Damascus Station was a tale of a spy runner who falls in love with his informant. There is much more to that book but the centre of it is relatively straightforward. Moscow X has its share of love interests and attraction but set in a world and characters that are much more complex. And the whole plot plays out against an audacious plan to destabilise Russian politics being run by the always entertaining Procter. Readers learn enough to know exactly when to be worried. And there is plenty to be worried about. After putting all of the pieces in place McCloskey ramps up the tension on all of the characters (and on the reader), with only a brief reprieve before turning up the heat again.
Moscow X is another great espionage thriller from McCloskey. Once again McCloskey embeds plenty of authentic feeling spycraft but never lets his characters be defined by their expertise or let the detail get in the way of the action. A third book featuring Procter (The Seventh Floor), is on the way. It cannot come soon enough.