Review: Thief Forced To Steal A Vital U.S. Defense Secret

This cover image released by Dutton shows "Three-edged Sword" by Jeff Lindsay. (Dutton via AP)
This cover image released by Dutton shows "Three-edged Sword" by Jeff Lindsay. (Dutton via AP)

“Three-Edged Sword,” by Jeff Lindsay (Dutton)

After the Cold War, former Soviet spy Ivo Balodis built himself a fortress in an abandoned missile site on an island in the Baltic Sea. There, he has continued to deal in secrets — but for profit instead of for country.

Balodis is now in possession of America’s most vital defense secret and is accepting bids on it, expecting to net $2 billion dollars.

Chase Prescott, an insufferably haughty CIA agent, is desperate to retrieve it. But how? The secret is on a flash drive stored in a state-of-the-art vault. The vault lies at the bottom of a missile silo on Balodis’s Island. And the island is fortified and guarded by a team of former Russian special forces troops.

So Prescott turns to Riley Wolfe, self-proclaimed world’s greatest thief — a man motivated less by profit than by the thrill of doing the impossible. As readers of Jeff Lindsay’s first two books in this series know, Wolfe is a chameleon who can alter his appearance, a parkour master able to scale the sides of buildings, and he has proven he can steal anything, no matter how well guarded.

As “Double Edged Sword” opens, Prescott abducts Wolfe and presents him with a proposition. If Wolfe can retrieve the flash drive, Prescott will arrange immunity for his past crimes. If he doesn’t, the agent will kill both Wolfe’s ill mother and his best friend, an art forger named Monique.

However, Prescott also offers Wolfe an additional enticement. If he succeeds, he can keep anything else of value in Balodis’s vault, including priceless Russian Orthodox icons the former spy has collected.

Wolfe agrees, even though he has no doubt that Prescott will have him killed as soon as he delivers.

Wolfe is not the first anti-hero Lindsay has created. He is also the author of eight thrillers featuring Dexter Morgan, a serial killer who murdered only other serial killers. Those novels provided the inspiration for “Dexter,” a popular Showtime TV series.

As usual with a Lindsay thriller, the darkly humorous tale is tightly written. For the most part, the ingenious plot unfolds at the furious pace the author’s fans have come to expect. Occasionally, however, it slows in poignant sections about Monique. The young woman is just awakening from a coma, the result of an attack on her in a previous Wolfe novel, and Lindsay does a fine job of portraying her struggle as she tries to remember who she is.

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Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”