The legendary assassin in the subgenre of 21st century tactically intense epic action thrillers, Court Gentry aka The Gray Man, goes on a solo freelance operation in Agent In Place, the 7th in the series, where he gets dragged into and battered horribly in a chaos made from his own choices. Being a character who doesn’t like to work for countries or get involved in political issues, Court is still a morally good hero in a vicious world who suffers through his own good intentions just like most of the other books in this series.
Wanting to help out in the Syrian civil war, Court works for the leaders of the Syrian resistance through a broker to nab the mistress of the Syrian dictator as she’s expected to have valuable intel. The model is in Paris for a fashion show after spending many years in Damascus and Court is given inaccurate intel about her security. Plus, her hotel gets stormed by ISIS forces while Court’s in the middle of grabbing his target. These complications escalate in the first act when he learns the first lady of Syria has put a hit on the model, using misinformation and proxies, to secure her status in power. Court gets further dragged into the situation when his clients, the leaders of the Syrian resistance movement – an old couple, doctors by profession and exiled freedom fighters by circumstance – ask him to infiltrate Syria to nab their captive’s son, the Syrian dictator’s only son, and reunite the boy with his mother to get her to cooperate in their scheme against the Assad knock-off fictional Syrian dictator.
Like any Gray Man epic, everything that can go wrong keeps erupting into chaos in an escalating conflict that’s woven with well paced dramatic intensity. None of the many characters are sure to survive the story, both the good and the bad and the gray. The plot keeps getting twisted with each complication that gets in Court’s way. Though this isn’t an assassination tale for the most part, Mark Greaney’s Agent In Place is a harrowing tale of survival amidst the most grim and brutal odds. Filled with unfortunate accidents and unlucky coincidences, even the Gray Man’s powers as a shadowy killer may not be enough against the savage darkness which he faces. Through Europe and Syria, Court embeds himself within mercenaries who kill for the highest bidder, works for a militant group he despises, and faces one of the worst war torn hells of the current world in order to get a chance at nabbing the boy and his nanny, sending them away safely out of their country, and extricating himself out of the region in one piece.
A character that steals the show is the antagonistic anti-hero, Sebastian Drexler, a sociopathic assassin who works for a major Swiss bank and is given by the bank to one of their biggest clients – the Syrian dictator. Drexler, who has initially taken the work to evade the law enforcement and intelligence groups of Europe, manages to also work for the Syrian first lady and have an affair with her. Both of them are cold, calculating, self-serving characters who are many notches more interesting than the usual Gray Man villains. Yet, they are humanized and made empathetic in their own twisted way through the course of the long narrative. The plot progresses to endanger both their lives from many angles, and Drexler is caught between executing an operation with multiple opposing objectives for his different employers while trying to perform his own trick to escape the situation and his job without getting himself killed.
With Syrian intelligence assassins, corrupt French cops, mercenaries, an aged but incompetent and meddling French intelligence officer with a vendetta against Drexler, and the Syrian resistance movement’s leaders who are but pawns to be easily sacrificed in a greater game, Drexler’s journey in this book is just as intense and chaotic as Gentry’s, making him an awesome and likeable character despite being a smart, evil maniac. I personally felt that the story had a lot of room for Drexler and Gentry to collide more than what happens in this twisted tale.
Gentry, the ever idealistic good assassin, attempts to make the best of the worst situation of his life and takes a shot at the most evil dictator of the Middle East, knowing full well that he may not escape what follows. While constantly jumping from the frying pan into the fire multiple times in his accidental escapades, Court Gentry faces the most gruesome operation he’s had to pull and takes all his grit, smarts, and perseverance to survive this epic. The action’s filled with shootouts, explosions, chases, bar fights, tanks, sniper work, and bloody close quarters fights that’s more intense and detailed than most action thrillers. At over 700+ pages, Agent In Place has enough going on in it to fill an 8 episode Netflix series. Even the humor at the darkest moments and constantly focused, gritty, and undying fight in Gentry’s spirit puts him on the top tier of the men’s action thriller protagonists in the current era. With Greaney’s long and epic narration that flows fast in an addictive and gut wrenching way, this may be the best quality of entertainment in the action thriller genre. Without going into any spoilers, Court delivers his vengeance on many characters, despite all the grim elements of the story, while keeping it as morally gray as fans of the series have come to enjoy.