Agent in Place by Mark Greaney (Spy/Suspense Novel, February 2018).
Court Gentry is a modern-day secret agent/assassin, often working for the CIA but sometimes (as in this case) more-or-less freelancing his services for a cause/mission he believes in. He’s known as the Gray Man for his shadowy and mysterious nature, and Greaney has been writing about his adventures for quite a while now. In this, his latest, a group of Syrian expatriots have hired him to kidnap the secret mistress of the Syrian dictator in order to get some dirt to desabilize his regime’s hold on power and damage his alliances with Russia and Iran.
Bianca Medina is in Paris to revive her career as a fashion model. She’s closely guarded by Syrian agents, but Gentry pulls off the abduction–and just in time, for an ISIS hit squad attacks the same night. It seems the wife of the Syrian dictator took the opportunity to have her rival killed off. Her own lover, a ‘fixer’ for the Swiss bank where Syria’s brutally ruling couple have stashed their ill-gotten millions, tipped off the terrorists that she was involved with another of their sworn enemies.
Gentry gets Bianca into the hands of the idealistic but inexperienced freedom fighters, but she won’t talk until somebody sneaks into war-ravaged Syria to retrieve her infant (the only son of the dictator and thus his likely heir). The dictator sends agents to steal Bianca back, but his wife’s lover is also along–to kill, rather than rescue her.
Meanwhile, Gentry gets into Syria using a risky cover story. Multiple violent confrontations happen around Paris and in-country. Many of those seeking to undermine the Syrian regime are killed, Bianca is kidnapped back by Syrians, there are all sorts of betrayals, skin-of-your-teeth escapes and all-around military mayhem. Of course the Gray Man will triumph in the end, after a suspenseful and extremely violent sequence of events.
The book’s title refers to having an operative inside enemy territory, such as when Gentry has arranged for the rescued baby (and the baby’s devoted nanny) to escape but he’s forced to stay behind for a further mission against the Syrian regime.
So yes, here we have yet another book about the seemingly endless and exceptionally violent civil war raging in Syria. It’s exciting, if savage stuff and effectively showcases the complex Syrian mess in all its many factions, the scheming of foreign governments and of uncaring big money interests profited from it all.
I want to note that the book carries the standard legalistic disclaimer that all characters “are either fictional or used in a fictional manner,” but don’t you believe it. The book’s strongman, Ahmed Azzam, is more than a stand-in for the country’s actual dictator, Bashir Assad. In most every detail, whether it is his physical description or the fact he was training to be a doctor before the death of his brother forced him into the “family business” of ruling the nation after his father’s death, Azzam is Assad for all intents and purposes.
Anyway, if modern spy adventure with lots of crazy derring-do and brutally explicit violence is your thing, the Gray Man and his several novels are a good bet.