Meet Javin Pierce, the man they send in second…
Javin Pierce works for the CIS, the Canadian Intelligence Service, but he’s no ordinary agent. Javin is a “Corrector.” He goes in to clean up and repair the damage when an operation goes wrong. It’s a job that requires subtlety and an ability to improvise in the field. By definition, Javin’s coming into a bad situation, so the missions are never easy.
But his latest assignment was supposed to at least be simple: recover a flash drive full of sensitive data from an Istanbul police station before it reaches Turkish intelligence. But no sooner does Javin arrive in Istanbul with new partner Claudia and a small team of local assets than things start to go awry. The Turks arrive sooner than expected, and a third player jumps in at just the wrong moment. Before long, Javin and his team are under attack and on the run with a wounded Turkish agent in tow.
Trying to unravel the mess they’ve landed in, they make a risky bargain with another Turkish agent that leads the team toward Damascus, and straight into the middle of the Syrian civil war. The shifting members of Javin’s team find themselves in a chaotic landscape where the sides change too quickly to keep up, and it’s not even clear who’s shooting at them, much less why.
Javin gradually figures out why things seem to be going against them at every turn. A powerful enemy lurks behind a shield of plausible deniability, lobbing indiscriminate attacks aimed at destroying them and the explosive information they carry. Javin has no intention of letting them get away with it. But before he can set things right, he needs to get himself and his team out of their increasingly tenuous mission alive.
Yes, I shot you, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a deal!
Ethan Jones is the author of the long-running Justin Hall series, also set in the world of the CIS, so even though this is the first in a new series, it doesn’t really feel like it. The Collector’s setting feels well worn in. A lot of supporting players come and go throughout the book, and they feel like people who have their own schemes and missions going on when Javin’s not crossing their paths.
Javin himself is a well-drawn action hero, though his character isn’t what’s meant to stand out here. His sorrow for his dead wife doesn’t break new ground. (Nor does the hint toward the end that there may be more to that than Javin knows.) Javin also has his doubts about his new partner, who’s facing her own past traumas, and there’s the expected hint of romantic tension between them. A more subtle way of revealing Javin’s character is the way he keeps calling in favors from local agents wherever they go. The implication is that Javin’s got a reputation for playing the game straight and being trustworthy, even among agents of presumably hostile organizations. In the end, this turns out to be one of his most effective assets.
But what really works in The Corrector is the plotting, in particular the way nothing ever goes quite the way Javin expects. Jones does a masterful job of piling complications on top of complications. The situation is constantly changing, and Javin must react on the fly, sometimes cutting deals with people he’s just shot. The result is a very believable world where no one knows the whole story, and sometimes you can’t even be sure of the basic facts. Javin’s a capable agent, but he’s lost in the fog of war, working out who he can and can’t trust as he goes. Jones uses this to keep the suspense ramped up from the opening straight through to the nasty little conclusion. If you want a tense action thriller set in a world that feels like a real place, The Corrector is one you won’t want to miss.
One thing that really amused me about The Corrector: for someone whose job is supposedly to go unnoticed in the background, Javin ends up throwing all subtlety right out the window almost immediately! I haven’t yet read the next two volumes in the series to see if this is a trend. But I’ll definitely be giving them a read based on this one.