Book Review: The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone/Book 1
Publisher: William Morrow (January 15, 2019)
Length: 432 pages
A perfectly serviceable political thriller, The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk introduces Peter Sutherland, a junior FBI agent who, despite being something of a pariah in security circles, has been given a second chance to prove himself. After all, his circumstances were through no fault of his own. Peter was just a boy when his father, an FBI counterintelligence chief, was accused of spying for the Russians, a mark on his record that that tormented the elder Sutherland for the rest of his life even after it ruined his reputation and career.
Inevitably, the suspicions also fell on Peter, despite his efforts to play everything straight and do everything by the rules. He has followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a surveillance specialist even knowing his chances of advancement are slim. However, all his hard work finally paid off the day Peter was offered a job in the Situation Room by the White House chief of staff. His role: to be the agent manning the night desk, monitoring any calls that might come in through the emergency phone lines during the graveyard shift. Even though none ever come, it’s still an important job, and Peter is also thankful enough just to have a position in the heart of the capital.
Then one night, on a night like any other, the phone finally rings. Peter picks up the receiver to a terrified sounding woman on the other end. “Night Action,” she says. “They told me to tell you that. That you would know what to do. My name is Rose Larkin. He’s here. He’s inside. He’s going to kill me.”
What follows next is a whirlwind of action and suspense as Peter is thrust into the middle of a conspiracy that implicates the possibility of a mole hidden in the highest levels of the government. While our protagonist is no Jack Bauer (because, let’s face it, who is?) The Night Agent does have the tone, pacing, and feel of something like 24. This story admittedly requires quite a bit of setup, resulting in erratic pacing for the first handful of chapters as the author bounces between multiple perspectives in order to introduce all the characters and the plot’s background elements as quickly as possible. Things smooth out soon after that.
Granted, I haven’t read too many political thrillers, but I imagine The Night Agent is pretty standard as far as the genre goes. The main focus is on the plot, ensuring that something interesting happens in every chapter with plenty of turning points and major reveals. Quirk isn’t one to waste his words and pretty much everything he’s written down is relevant to the main thrust of the story. This kept the momentum strong throughout and the narrative constantly driving forward so that I never found myself bored.
Similar to my experience with most thrillers though, I also found characterization to be on the weaker side as more emphasis is placed on the thriller and action elements. But given the wild ride the author takes us on, it’s a trade-off I didn’t mind too much. Our protagonists also felt genuine enough, and easy to relate to despite the crazy situation in which they’ve found themselves. Peter is an unassuming figure, at least in the political arena that is Washington DC. He may work close to the president and his trusted staff, but at the end of the day he is a low-level FBI agent, unremarkable except for his father’s history. Rose, on the other hand, has a more vivacious personality. She has come to the city to stay with her uncle and aunt, who turn out to be couple of former spies. Both Peter and Rose are just ordinary individuals caught up in extraordinary circumstances trying their best to survive with the limited resources they have, which makes readers sympathetic to their struggle.
All told, I found The Night Agent to be an entertaining read. I doubt it would change the world or blow any minds, but it certainly deserves a look if you’re into high-drama political thrillers. And while I confess this isn’t a genre I’m all that familiar with, after reading this novel I definitely wouldn’t mind reading more just like it.