“The Operator,” by Kim Harrison

Peri Reed is a special agent with a special talent. She can “draft” back in time, but only for a few seconds. But once time comes back to normal, she can’t remember what happened in either timeline. For this she needs an “anchor,” to bring her memories up to date. But the anchor also has the ability to wipe her mind completely. She gets all the glory; he stays in the shadows and keeps her going. Which leads to a neatly balanced need/power/interdependence that does not make for solid romantic relationships.

This sort of talent lends itself to a world of super-hush-hush spies and intertwining phantom government agencies, creating an insanely complicated wheels-within-wheels plot with nonstop action.

Which is not necessarily all to the good. By the time I had finished the first half of the book, I was having difficulty remembering everything that happened. Which could be my ageing brain, but is also the fact that there is a great deal happening, but not much going on.

All I could remember was a bunch of nasty people manipulating each other, and even the nice people being under constant stress. This author keeps beautiful control of her supernatural elements. She needs to show us equal mercy in letting up on the tension once in a while.

Finally, about two-thirds of the way through the plot we get a glimmering of who the good guys and who the bad guys are, and the story starts to take on meaning for us. From that point on, it rolls beautifully, right down to the not-quite-satisfying ending. Because, of course, there’s another book in the series.

The main strength of this story is the character of Peri. She is not the simple “Whee, look at me being a bad girl” main character usual in this genre. She is a sympathetic, fully exposed human being, as much addicted to the life she leads as she is to the drug that controls her talent. So the transition to the next book in the series does not happen because of plot manipulation, but through unresolved issues that keep Peri tied to her life and the sleazy people in it.

A minor irritation is the sloppy editing. She calls this guy Allen, and he makes a big deal about paying her in cash and telling her to keep the change. In the next chapter his name is Ron and he gets trouble from his boss for paying with a p-card. Complicated sentences and intertwined action cry out for polishing.

Recommended for Spy/Action fans who like their thrills nonstop. Other reviewers have expressed a need to read the first book in the series, but I felt that (except for Ron Allen) I could pick things up quite well from the author’s hints.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

 

 

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