“Agent in Place” by Mark Greaney has lots of action, some current events and a great storyline. The main character, Court Gentry, known as “The Gray Man,” ventures into places where not many would dare to go having to overcome some very bad people. The reader feels as if they are placed right into the center of the Syrian Civil War as they go along for the ride with Gentry as he faces all of the different factions and players including mercenaries, the Free Syrian Army, ISIS and the Russians, just to mention a few.
Greaney wants “Court to operate with a mission he thought of as noble. Because I have been interested in this civil war ever since it started, I decided to create this idea for the story. Assad is currently using chlorine against his people and seems to get away with quite a bit. It seems over the years governments say, ‘We will never let this happen again.’ When it happens again, they look the other way and appear to do nothing. It is pretty pathetic. Many of those who are anti-Assad, or in my case anti-al-Azzam, are radical Jihadists. There is the saying, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ but the reverse is also true. Then there is Russia that basically wants to use Syria as an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, where they have a military presence. All these groups including those against the Russians commit atrocities, but then there are the innocent children and those who just want to live their lives. It is not like World War II where there were distinct good guys versus bad guys.”
The novel begins with ISIS about to execute Court. The story then backtracks a week to show readers how Gentry got in this mess to begin with. Because he was never an official employee of the CIA, Court decides which missions he will choose, some for the spy agency and some from freelance work.
In this case, he is working on his own for the Halabys, leaders of the Free Syria Exile Union, who hire him to kidnap the mistress of the Syrian president, the model Bianca Medina. The plan is to have her release information that will deal a serious blow to the Syrian regime and hasten the end of the cruel civil war. Complications arise when she refuses unless her son is rescued from the grips of his father, Ahmed al-Azzam, the Syrian president. After agreeing to this new job, Gentry realizes that there is a tangled web including Syria’s first lady, who wants Bianca and the heir to the throne dead. The tension ratchets up even higher from here.
His nickname of “The Gray Man” suits Gentry since he always seems to keep a low profile and work in the shadows. He’s a fiercely loyal and trustworthy individual and when he says he’s got your back you can believe him. What makes him special is his desire to do what is necessary to make sure the bad guys never are a threat again. It is a welcome relief considering the real world has the bad guys winning way too much.
Greaney uses current events to make the plot even more realistic.
“It is very important to me not to make them so complex they are not understandable,” he said. “Of course, I am obviously pushing the envelope, but I do want everything to be possible. I hope Court is not viewed as a superhero like Captain America. Instead, he should be seen with vulnerabilities and can get hurt at any time. For example, there is a kernel of truth about my character, Shakira Azzam, and the real Syrian first lady. In this book, she is a power broker because she is villainous. She is beautiful, brilliant, and was once referred to as ‘the Rose of the Desert’ and ‘Lady Diana of the Middle East.’ But in actuality, she is a master manipulator and wants to be in control. Now, after seven years of a Civil War, her public image has been destroyed, and she is now referred to as ‘The First Lady of Hell.’”
“Agent In Place” blends historical facts, current events, and a gripping action-packed story. It is nice to have The Gray Man fighting on the side of righteousness.