After 9/11, many an author found it necessary to explain how little cooperation there is among the many “security” agencies. That didn't last for author Robin Burcell, one-time forensic artist for the FBI, though. It took only a decade or so for her to envision so much interagency bonhomie that she made it difficult to remember which three-letter agency a character works for: MI5, MI6, CIA, FBI, NSA… Unfortunately, it's not just difficult to remember who’s working for whom, it's difficult to much care.
During their separation, FBI SpecAgent Tony Carillo's almost-former wife Sheila became entangled with a handsome dummy called "Trip,” and Trip got himself mixed up with a charitable organization – the wrong one, it seems. Apparently, the folks behind "A.D.E." (ooh! Three letters!) believed that young Trip had found out certain secrets about their real business (not charities…). Soon, people are dying.
Sheila called her old friend Tony and Tony called his one-time partner Sydney Fitzpatrick. Sydney called Griffin, a superspy (a superstud, too, for whom she had a bad case of the hots). Griffin called in Doc and Tex – and this was before anything had actually happened...
Flash forward to Europe, where the good guys ringed in the CIA. MI6 and some French agency or other. Keep flashing to refugee camps in a distant corner of Africa. There are bad people involved, all, right, but in keeping with the superspy trope the good guys easily out -wit or -gun them as necessary. Everything would be OK, except they figure out that the chief bad guy is holding a canister of Cesium 137 – at which point the plot changes from “rescue the refugees” to “oops! A dirty bomb!”
Unfortunately, the most praise I can muster for Robin Burcell's The Black List is, "There are no vampires." Beyond that, the book is a waste of five or six hours that could have been better spent polishing the silverware or cleaning the grout in the shower stall. It’s that bad…
The Black List is apparently intended for those romance readers who find 50 Shades of Grey too steamy or would rather read about a hail of bullets than a night of passion. No problem there - too many sex scenes in mystery-thrillers seem to have been added out of a sense of obligation rather than to advance any plotting. Not that Burcell doesn’t seem to have used unrequited lust to pad the word count – remember the sexual in those lousy '80s sitcoms? At least that’s what seems to be the case, given that Sydney spends almost as much time lusting after Griffin as she does chasing villains.
That silly romantic overlay may be distracting, but The Black List gets worse: the plot’s so unnecessarily complex that not only does the reader get lost, it appears that the author got lost once or twice. And it’s derivative, too – name any spy-thriller plot point and there’s a good chance you’ll find it somewhere in there. Perhaps worst of all, the plot is as holey as Swiss cheese!
As far as I'm concerned, the only black list around my house (Raymond Reddington’s excluded, of course) is the one I put this novel on.