Friday, August 23, 2019

The Eighth Sister - Robert Dugoni

It was only after I read Robert Dugoni’s The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell that I learned the author is probably better known for the two series that he continues to add to, the David Sloane series (of five books) and the Tracy Crosswhite series (of six books), than he is for his three standalone novels. I was suitably impressed by Sam Hell and decided to explore the author’s backlist a bit. Before I could do that, however, I got sucked in by a brand-new Robert Dugoni spy thriller called The Eighth Sister that has left me more determined than ever to check out the Dugoni backlist.

The Eighth Sister impresses me as kind of a throwback to all those Cold War era spy novels that I’ve read and enjoyed over the years except that it’s a little more cynical than I remember most of those novels as having been. There are the usual agents, double agents, even the semblance of a team-rivalry between the various spy agencies (both domestic and foreign) in this one, but what strikes me as most unusual is Dugoni’s decision to use a 6-foot five black man as his spy hero. After all, it will not be easy for a man like Charles Jenkins to blend into the background in Mexico and Russia, the two countries in which Jenkins works for the CIA. I admit to being a bit skeptical at first but realized soon enough that this kind of challenge makes the Charles Jenkins character even more fun than he otherwise would have been.

Robert Dugoni
Charles Jenkins is in his early sixties and he has not worked for the CIA in decades, ever since becoming so disillusioned with the agency that he walked away from it without a word to his superiors. Jenkins, married with a young son and a baby on the way, now runs a security consulting business that is struggling to fight off what seems to be an imminent declaration of bankruptcy. So, when his old Mexico bureau chief shows up at his door and offers Jenkins a CIA assignment that will pay him enough money to save his business and his home, he reluctantly agrees to take the job. A Russian agent is identifying and killing, one-by-one, a group of seven Russian women (known within the agency as the seven sisters) who have been spying for the U.S. for a number of years. That deadly Russian agent has been dubbed the eighth sister – and the CIA wants Jenkins to find her. 

But when Jenkins does identify the eighth sister, he learns that she is not at all what he expected her to be – nor, it seems, is anyone else with whom he’s been dealing. Now he will be lucky to get out of Russia with his life, much less save the lives of the four surviving sisters.

The Eighth Sister is a fast-paced thriller that turns out to be almost a chess match between Jenkins and the Russian agent who is chasing him across Russia. The two men are so well matched, in fact, that they grudgingly begin to respect each other’s abilities and to plan their next moves accordingly. Jenkins may be a master of misdirection, but after the Russian begins to take that particular talent of his into account he draws closer and closer to the fleeing American. Little does Jenkins know, though, that even if he makes it out of Russia, he will have to face an even more powerful enemy that wants to destroy him.

Bottom Line: The Eighth Sister is a highly atmospheric and well-researched spy thriller that is sure to please fans of the genre. Dugoni’s descriptions of the Russian winter almost gave me frost bite, but I still enjoyed this one so much that I want to explore the Dugoni backlist now more than ever. Good stuff.


  1. Ooh...this one does sound really good! I'm putting it on my Goodreads want to read list. :D

    1. I love it when I discover a new (to me) writer I really enjoy, and right now Robert Dugoni is two for two. And the best part is that there are another 10+ books of his for me to try.

  2. I'm not a big fan of spy-type novels, but I did like the one Dugoni book I read. It's the first book in the Tracy Crosswhite series. My sister recommended the series to me because the books are entertaining, but they also take place in Washington State where I grew up. In a later book, he mentions some little tiny towns in the Columbia River Gorge that are known to only locals (like me). Fun!

    1. A lot of this one takes place in Seattle and on a remote island in Washington state that I can't remember the name of. I think there are two more books featuring the same main character that are set to be released in the next year or so, and one of the main characters in the book is David Sloane (who already has a five-book series of his own). Dugoni seems to be taking the Michael Connelly approach of merging the main characters of two series into the same book. But since Sloane is a lawyer, I doubt that Jenkins will be needing his services in the next couple of books.