That statement may sound a bit extreme, but then Alex Klear isn’t talking about having engaged in aggressive telemarketing or selling door-to-door. No, Klear is one of those people who works in the shadows conducting operations of questionable legality on behalf of the government.
The opening of Albert Ashforth’s The Rendition finds Klear in the Balkans on just such a mission. He and two other operatives are there on a rendition, which is really just a euphemism for a government sanctioned kidnapping of a foreign national.
Having been thrown together at the last minute by those higher up the chain – and severely undermanned in Klear’s opinion – conditions are ripe for the mission to fail. How spectacularly it would fail, however, Klear couldn’t possibly have anticipated, as he ends up captured by the very person his team was sent to extract.
He’s tortured for two days by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) before finally being sprung by a hastily arranged rescue team, at which point he decides his days as a covert operative are officially over. Except, of course, they’re not. Nearly a year later he’s lured back for another mission with the promise that it will allow him a measure of redemption, and revenge. Turns out a U.S. operative is being held on suspicion of murder in a high security prison in Germany, and Klear is assured that it is somehow related to his failed rendition.
Upon arriving in Munich, Klear is somewhat alarmed to learn that the same person tied to his Balkan mission is running the show in Germany, the same person who was so critical of his performance the year before. Why then would they request him again? As Klear initiates the process of setting up an extraction plan for his fellow agent, he begins uncovering pieces that don’t seem to fit the puzzle he thought he was working on. Before he knows it, Klear himself is in the crosshairs of the German police, as well as his old nemesis the KLA. Was he really brought in to save the day, or to act as the patsy for another operation gone horribly wrong?
Gone are the days of the old school spy novel. As author Albert Ashforth pointed out in his guest post (“Goodbye James Bond”), the events of 9/11 forever altered the lens through which novels based on contemporary international espionage are read, and written for that matter. In that regard, The Rendition is the perfect representation of the new school spy novel, one in which the rules of engagement aren’t just blurred, they’re downright obliterated. The backdrop has also radically shifted. Gone is the oft romanticized Cold War, replaced instead with threats from rogue nations, splinter cells, and terrorist organizations. In the case of The Rendition, it’s the bitter, brutal secret war to liberate Kosovo from Serbia circa 2007/2008 which is utilized as the springboard for the events which unfold over the course of the novel.
Having actually worked as a military contractor in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, Ashforth brings a level of gritty realism to The Rendition that’s hard to ignore, and which makes a tremendous impact. And while the pace is undeniably full throttle, there is never a sense of melodrama, and James Bond style gadgetry and antics are nowhere to be found. This is not a dashing adventure for Klear. It’s a job, and an extremely dangerous, high stakes one at that. Quite simply, The Rendition is a wonderful melding of top-notch action and a serious look at contemporary international politics and espionage.
If you’re looking for a spy novel with a decidedly harder edge, but which will enlighten as much as entertain, you need look no farther than The Rendition.
The Rendition is available from Oceanview Publishing (ISBN: 978-1608090594).