Dark Spies: A Spycatcher Novel by Matthew Dunn (Excerpt)

Title:  Dark Spies:  A Spycatcher Novel
Author: Matthew Dunn
Series: Spycatcher Novel
Genre:  Thriller
Publication Date: April 28, 2015 Mass Market Paperback
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Imprint: Harper
Pages: 464

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Intelligence agent Will Cochrane - now on the run from the CIA inside the U.S.--must uncover a diabolical spymaster at the center of an international conspiracy in this thrilling follow up to Slingshot and fourth novel in the series.

Will Cochrane has been called by critics a "ruthless yet noble" (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram), "one-man weapon of mass destruction" (Daily Telegraph), and a brilliant agent from whom "Bond and Bourne could learn a thing or two" (Madison County Herald). But when Will encounters a Russian spymaster--codenamed Antaeus--who is very much alive despite being thought long-dead, Will is thrust into a deadly scheme that points to powerful players deep within the U.S. intelligence community. Will has worked with the CIA for years and knows them all, but now he also knows there’s no one he can really trust.

Will’s orders from Langley are clear: DO NOT TOUCH ANTAEUS. HE IS AN ASSET WITH PROJECT FERRYMAN. But as he watches Antaeus and his men attempt to execute the CIA’s own best agents, Will refuses to stand down and takes his own shot at the spymaster, knowing he will become a wanted man as a result.

Now the only way to save his career—and his life—is to get into the U.S. and uncover the truth about Project Ferryman. Except four deadly Russian assassins are on his trail, along with an elite FBI team controlled by shadowy officials who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets from ever seeing the light of day.



Prague, 2005

It was no easy task to identify a spy and make that person betray their country. But that was what the Russian man was here to do.   
Wearing a black dinner suit, he entered the Intercontinental hotel’s Congress Hall and fixed a grin on his face so that he looked like every other insincere diplomat who was attending the American embassy’s cocktail party.  There were hundreds of them, men and women, beautiful, plain, and ugly, from at least forty different countries. The less experienced of them were huddled awkwardly in small protective groups, pouring champagne down their throats to ease the pain of being here. 
The Russian wasn’t interested in them.
Instead he was here because he wanted to watch the people who he termed “the predators”; the seasoned, clever, heads-crammed-full-of- juicy-secrets, diplomats who glided through events like these, moving from one person to another, offering brief, charming, inane comments, touching arms as if the act conveyed profound meaning, before floating effortlessly to the next person.  Diplomats called it “working the room”, but the Russian understood that wasn’t what they were doing. They were controlling the room and everything within it, watching for a moment where they could snatch a vital piece of information from someone weaker than themselves, or choosing the right moment to speak a few carefully chosen words and manipulate vulnerable minds.
The Russian knew the predators, and some of them thought they knew him - Radimir Kirsanov, a forty something, low level diplomat who was on a short term posting to the Russian embassy in the Czech Republic.  The women in the room liked Radimir because he had cute cheek dimples, sky blue eyes, blond and silver hair that was styled in the cut of a 1960s movie star, and had the physique of a tennis player – the kind of shape that was not particularly good or bad in the naked flesh, but one that wore a suit with rapier-like panache. Plus, they thought his dim mind made their superior intellects shine.  The men, on the other hand, briefly glanced at him with disdain, as if he was a brainless male model.
Radimir grabbed a glass of champagne from one of the dozens of black and white uniformed waiters who were navigating their way across the vast room, dodging diplomats, and skirting around tables covered in immaculate starched white cloths that were kept firmly in place by heavy candelabra and artificial flower presentations.  The Russian held the glass in front of his chest, with no intention of drinking from it, moved past a bored-looking string quartet, and walked into the party.  All around him was the sound of laughter, manifold languages, and women brushing against men who were not their partners.
Radimir made sure he didn’t glide with the confidence and precision of a predator.  He wasn’t supposed to have the skills to do that.  Instead, he meandered his way across the room, smiling to show off his dimples.  He stood in the corner, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, sometimes smoothing a hand against his suit as if he was fidgeting because he was not at ease and had sweaty palms.
For a while, people noticed him. Beautiful people get that kind of attention.  But as with gorgeous art, there’s a limited period of time one can stare at a good looking person before it becomes boring.  After thirty minutes, he was sure he was now invisible.
He moved to another part of the room, not too far, just a few yards to the next table where he could pick at some canapés and fiddle with part of the flower display.  All of the time he kept his gaze low, because he didn’t want to embarrass himself by talking to someone cleverer than him.  Thankfully, the Demigods around him knew that Radimir was aware of his limitations so they left him alone.  It was the only good thing they did for him.
Holding his champagne glass with two hands so that he looked like an amateur at these types of events, he walked to another table, then another, then several more.  Forty minutes later he returned to his starting point in the corner of the room.  Poor Radimir, he imagined the pros would think if any of them had seen his awkward and pointless amble around the room, though he doubted any of them had noticed.  The predators were moving up a gear, pouncing on late and desirable new arrivals, placing firm arms around them and guiding them to someone they didn’t know but just had to meet, cracking jokes, whispering in ears, kissing cheeks, flattering, nodding with sage expressions, and all the time acting to hide their agenda: pure lust for information.
The Russian placed his full glass on the table, leaned back against the wall, folded his arms, and smiled his very best pretty and dumb smile. He’d practiced the expression many times in front of mirrors and he was convinced he’d perfected the look.  It was an expression that he hoped said, I’m resigned to the fact that my looks are all I have.
It kept people away.  Even the ones who were as dim-witted as he was, because no one wants to stand next to a man who’s as stupid as they are but four times more attractive.
Radimir momentarily closed his eyes.
When he opened them, he was the cleverest person in the room.
A man who was not called Radimir.
Instead, someone who was known to a limited number of people as Gregori Shonin, an SVR intelligence officer. And a predator with skills that were way beyond those of the other predators around him.
There was a third side to the Russian, one that did not carry the false names of Radimir or Gregori, one that was the truth, but right now that was buried so deep inside him that he gave it little thought.  This evening, being Gregori undercover as Radimir was sufficient for what he hoped to achieve.
Gregori’s huge intellect was processing a vast amount of data, all gleaned from his forty minute walk through the room.  Hundreds of voices and sentences, many of them in English, some in other languages he understood fluently, only a few in tongues he didn’t understand or care about.  He spent several minutes doing nothing more than deliberately forgetting most of what he’d heard.  Ejecting the crap, was how he like to term the cognitive process. It was an arduous task but necessary because at the end of it his mind would picture himself standing in this huge room, not with hundreds of diplomats from all around the world, but instead with one or two officials who worked for countries he loathed and who’d said or done something interesting.
Something that suggested they had the potential to spy on his behalf. 
He continued the process of ejecting. Introductions, pleasantries, small talk, lots of “How long have you been posted here?”, several people lying about how beautiful the American hostess looked tonight, a few jaded comments about last week’s G7 summit, bad humor, and a fairly amusing anecdote from an Italian diplomat about her experience at a Mongolian tribal feast.  All crap.
Gregori stared ahead.  The room was still buzzing at full capacity, but in his mind he imagined that only one American couple was in the place. Both were predators.  They were standing still, frozen in Gregori’s radar as he walked around them, staring at their faces from different angles as he sought a glance into their eyes and their very souls.
The husband was an experienced CIA officer who’d been previously posted to the Agency’s stations in London, Abu Dhabi, and Pretoria.  He’d been in Prague for two and a half years and was due to return to Langley in six months.  He was thirty seven years old, no doubt smart and capable, and had met his wife while both were studying at Harvard.  She too could have gone on to have an excellent job in government, though early on they had decided that the overseas life of an Agency spouse would preclude her having a career.  So, she’d agreed to be the good wife, accompany him on his overseas postings, support him in every way, and in return he could give her a couple of kids. But so far they’d been unsuccessful in having children.
They were in the room for two reasons.  One was a hushed and angry comment made by the husband to his wife.
“Are you sure that’s where you were this afternoon?”
The other reason was perfume. 
The wife loved Dolce & Gabbana perfumes, so much so that she would never step outside of her home without applying too much of it to her throat and wrists.  At events like these, one didn’t have to stand too close to her to smell the unmistakable rich scent on her skin.  But tonight was different, because she wore no such scent   Where was she this afternoon? Gregori thought through the possibilities. A place she’d gone to clutching the ball gown she’d collected from the dry cleaners.  A venue where she could get dressed in comfort, fix her hair, and put on makeup that she’d brought along in her handbag.  Some location that didn’t allow her time to rush home before meeting her husband at the party.  And she would have desperately wanted to go home, when she’d realized she’d forgotten to pack her beloved perfume.
Where was that place? Like all top spies, Gregori used his instincts and imagination to fill in the gaps.  Of course, that place was another man’s home. The woman had been unfaithful to her husband. She’d dressed for the party after she’d made love.
Gregori smiled.
Her infidelity could give him leverage over her husband.
His boss would be very pleased with Gregori’s work.
Because his boss was the brilliant spymaster Antaeus, a man who had devoted his whole life to crippling America.


About the Author

As an MI6 field officer, Matthew Dunn coordinated special operations, and acted in deep-cover roles throughout the world. He was trained in all aspects of intelligence collection, deep-cover deployments, small-arms, explosives, military unarmed combat, surveillance, and infiltration. During his time in MI6, Dunn conducted approximately seventy missions—all of them successful. He lives in England. This is his fourth Spycatcher novel.

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  1. Fourth in the series - was just going to ask that. I'd need to find the first book.


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