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THE SPY COAST by Tess Gerritsen: Book Review

Purity, Maine, is the small town that former CIA agent Maggie Bird has moved to, consciously because she has several friends there, and perhaps unconsciously because of its name.  Above all Maggie desires peace and safety, and for two years she’s relished having both in her new home.  Then comes a figure out of her past that changes everything.

Maggie finds out from her neighbor’s granddaughter that a woman had been in town the day before, asking for the owner of Blackberry Farm.  Although the woman hadn’t mentioned Maggie by name, she’s given directions to the farm, and the following day Maggie, returning from her errands, gets an alert on her phone that her home’s security has been breached.

When Maggie enters her kitchen, she sees a young woman who is calmly pulling out a chair and making herself  comfortable, not at all frightened by the gun pointing at her.  She calls herself Bianca, although Maggie doubts that’s her real name, and she tells Maggie that she needs her help in find another former CIA agent, Diana Ward.  Diana has “dropped off the radar,” last seen a few days earlier in Thailand.

Diana and Maggie were two of the people involved in Operation Cyrano sixteen years earlier, an episode that did not end well for a number of people, including Maggie.  When Bianca persists in her efforts to get her to join the search for the missing woman, that she may be in trouble, Maggie is unmoved.  Thinking of the history she and Diana shared during Cyrano, Maggie tells her visitor, “I don’t give a ____ what happens to her,” and closes the door in Bianca’s face.

When Maggie goes to a meeting of her bookclub/Martini Club that night with her friends who were also agents or otherwise involved with the Agency, she learns that they all know about her visitor.  Ben Diamond and Declan Rose are unapologetic about sharing the news with Ingrid and Lloyd Slocum, with Ben saying to Maggie, “I felt they needed to know. When an outsider shows up in our little town, it causes ripples.”

The five have just finished drinks and dinner but haven’t begun to discuss the book chosen for that month when Maggie’s cell phone rings.  It’s her neighbor, who tells her something is going on at her house.  When she arrives home, she sees Purity’s two patrol cars, three police officers, and Bianca’s dead body in her driveway.

To acting police chief Jo Thibodeau, Maggie is taking the discovery of a tortured and shot woman outside her home much too calmly.  Maggie’s excellent security system and the fact that four Purity residents can vouch for her presence during the time the murder was committed doesn’t give Jo any reason to suspect Maggie of the crime.  Still, she wonders, how can this middle-aged woman take this horrendous event without any apparent alarm?

Then it’s up to Maggie, with a little help from her friends, to go back sixteen years to discover why Bianca was sent to Purity and what that means for the owner of Blackberry Farm.

Master storyteller Tess Gerritsen has written an excellent thriller, with a captivating protagonist and cast of characters.  You can read more about her at this site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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