“Scorpion Winter” is the latest entry in author Andrew Kaplan’s action/mystery Scorpion series, and its a good one. They’re all good. Kaplan’s hero is super-spy, super-sleuth, super-sly “Code Name Scorpion,” he of a hundred identities and thousands of martial arts moves.
Yet despite all those “supers,” Scorpion is a (sort of) real human being. He gets nervous when he’s in a tough spot; he can’t handle ten other master martial artists at the same time; he can’t leap over tall buildings in a single bound. And — horrors — he is not even immune to torture. He sometimes even has to give up the good fight and be saved by someone else.
The plot and settings of “Scorpion Winter” involve the hero in exciting adventures in areas of the world ranging from the Middle East to Russia, and in this book, the Ukraine. With the help of a gorgeous Ukrainian democracy activist, he must stop, single-and-a-half-handedly, a potential war between Russia and Ukraine which would certainly spread to NATO forces led, of course, by the United States.
To accomplish the mission, he must overcome the evil ones arrayed against him within Ukraine and Russia, the deceit of the vicious criminals he must confront, including the Ukrainian Mafia, and even betrayal by his own CIA semi-compatriots, some of whom are his best friends. With friends like these…
Part of the mystery for this reviewer is, as usual, how the heck Scorpion is able to even keep all the names and initials of people and organizations straight. In this novel alone, we are introduced to such luminaries as Akhnetzov, Cherkesov, Gabrilov, Kozhanovsky, Mogilenko, the FSB, the RSV, the SVR, the SBU–well, I probably got some of those wrong, but that’s okay. You’ll eventually figure out who the bad guys and good guys are.
That is, until Kaplan crosses you up and good guys become bad guys and bad guys become not-so-bad guys, and…. and if you’re not yet confused enough, Kaplan continually writes dialogue in the native language of the speaker, followed in most cases by an immediate translation of the impossible phrases into English. With no punctuation.
So what’s the result of all this mystery and confusion? A whole lot of fun. Somehow, the entire mish-mosh becomes a terrifically enjoyable pot-boiler page-turner. And to top it all off, you really care about Scorpion every time he’s in deep trouble, which, of course, is his situation on almost every page. Scorpion is always a great read, a great spy, a great character.
Please note: This book is based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher, Harper, for review purposes.
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