Burner (Gray Man)

Image of Burner (Gray Man)
Release Date: 
February 21, 2023
Reviewed by: 

the plot moves with the relentless velocity of a runaway train, plunging from one crisis to another without stopping for breath. . . . Greaney hits every conventional thriller element known to humankind . . .”

Mark Greaney cut his teeth in the thriller genre as a co-author alongside one of the best in the business, Tom Clancy. He added several further titles to the Jack Ryan series after Clancy’s passing, developing his craft in perceptible increments with each new novel.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that his 12th Gray Man thriller, Burner, is a state-of-the-art tour de force, perfect to read while riding the bus to work, lying on a beach catching some rays, or waiting in an airport to board your flight, hopefully jetting off to one of the exotic locations visited by Greaney in this page-turner.

Still on the CIA’s kill-on-sight list, Court Gentry has gone off the grid in the British Virgin Islands. A “professional saboteur, private assassin, and international fugitive,” he’s been putting in time blowing up the super-yachts of Russian oligarchs. Unexpectedly, he’s approached on his ketch by an innocuous-looking CIA officer.

Angela Lacy has been tasked to hand Court a cell phone so that he can speak to Suzanne Brewer, the special assistant to the Deputy Director of Operations, who has somehow located him in order to offer him an assignment.

Alex Velesky, a Swiss banker of Ukrainian origin whose job involves receiving billions of dollars from corrupt Russian clients and laundering it throughout the world, has come into possession of data that records the origins of this wealth. Coupled with his own records, which he decides to steal from the bank, he now possesses a complete picture of the movement of funds from Russia to international destinations that include the United States.

Can the Gray Man reach Velesky in time to take possession of the data and ensure it reaches the proper hands?

As with any other espionage thriller of this sort, the story is told from multiple points of view that advance the plot and move the characters forward like chess pieces on a glamorous and exotic game board. Impressively, Greaney makes it easy for readers to keep track of each thread, although the wait between Court’s chapters does seem a little long at times.

Russian assassin Luka Rudenko is a formidable opponent, and Greaney successfully develops his point of view without lapsing into the sort of two-dimensional stereotypes that plague other, lesser, thrillers.

The bonus, of course, is Court’s on-again, off-again love interest, former Russian intelligence officer Zoya Zakharova, who has also been tasked to take possession of Velesky and his data for a rival bank. Greaney refuses to pull punches with her alcohol and cocaine addictions, adding suspense to Zoya’s attempts to complete her mission without getting herself and her target—not to mention Court—killed in the process.

Best of all, the plot moves with the relentless velocity of a runaway train, plunging from one crisis to another without stopping for breath. Meanwhile, Greaney hits every conventional thriller element known to humankind, one after another.

It’s as though he sat down at the keyboard with a list: an underwater knife fight to the death—check; an improbable parachute drop—check; a high-speed chase in luxury performance cars—check; a claustrophobic gunfight on a train—check; Ukrainian separatist/terrorists operating on American soil—check.

Are you kidding me? This one has it all.

The number one job of a thriller is to entertain, and Greaney has met this objective with flying colors. And after that? Torn from today’s headlines, Burner is believable, relevant to today’s world events, and fun to read. What more could you ask for?