“The Wayward Assassin”

“The Wayward Assassin” is book two in the “Wayward” series; many characters continue from the previous book, but pertinent background information is seamlessly woven into the current narrative. This story opens with a version of an actual event.  On September 1, 2004, Chechen terrorists attacked a school in Beslan, in the Russian republic of North Ossetia, resulting in the deaths of 333 people, including 186 children, and 31attackers. The fictional interpretation then takes over.

Maggie Jenkins is a CIA analyst on assignment in Moscow. Her favorite mug announces “Not a Morning Person.” She has no “formal” training as a spy. When she tries to sneak into a house, her pant leg gets caught on a spike on top of the gate. When she tries to text for help, her cell battery is dead. When she jumps into a taxi, as spies are inclined to do, and yells “Follow that car,” she adds “Please.” However, she is intuitive, focused, and an expert on Chechen terrorism. Zara Barayeva is a Chechen terrorist; her assignment is to bomb the school and kill children. Killing these children is but a trial run. Her next mission will be even more spectacular. She will succeed, and she will survive. Then, the paths of these two diverse experts converge.

The narrative unfolds in alternating points of view showing the same events but from different perspectives. Details are revealed through conversations, what people say to each other and what they say to themselves. Things happen quickly, over just a few days, and chapters are clearly labeled for readers with the date and location. In the United States, a milestone date is fast approaching, September 11, 2004.

Ouellette puts readers in to the scenes with detailed descriptions. Readers feel the cool metal railing, know the coughing and stinging caused by black exhaust, and hear the flag’s snap hooks pinging against the metal pole, breaking the stillness in the parking lot.

I received a review copy of “The Wayward Assassin” from Susan Ouellette and CamCat Books.  The book is fast-paced with action and intrigue on every page.

 “The best you can do is hope that the bad stuff will lead to better things.”