Cade, a dishonorably discharged British soldier with “special” skills, is a patriot who kills not for money but for his country. Emotionally scarred by an unjust jail sentence and by the brutal murder of his daughter, he is easily convinced of the righteousness of his acts; the four highly placed GCHQ employees whom he is assigned to kill have been selling sensitive information to the Soviets for years. Unknown to Cade, however, this is only the first layer of treachery. American intelligence officers are using one of the GCHQ moles for their own purposes, handing authentic British secrets along with American disinformation to the Soviets, believing that the truths give credence to the lies. The mole, a double agent code-named ORACLE, is scheduled to be Cade’s fourth kill. The Americans want ORACLE alive; the British have other ideas. As the clandestine wars get dirtier, everyone wants Cade dead.
Unwilling at first to kill ORACLE, Cade is promised, in return for the murder, the names of the two Irish National Liberation Army soldiers who kidnapped, tortured, raped, and murdered his six-year-old daughter in retaliation for his killing of four of their chums. So Cade finds his target, but guarding ORACLE is a remarkable soldier with special skills of his own. Their meeting is a catalyst for violence, and the result is not quite what either of the two intelligence establishments had planned.
Wright uses authentic settings, intelligence agency intricacies, and police procedures to advance his plot, lending a note of solid realism. His true strength, however, is characterization. Cade, a far cry from the stereotypical hit man, is believable from beginning to end. Even the secondary characters have depth, and the plot is good enough to keep the pages turning fast. Wright, who is British, has written three previous novels; this is his second to be published in the United States.