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Red Cell

by Mark Henshaw

Series: Red Cell (1)

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798258,386 (3.82)None
Reassigned to a CIA think tank in Langley after an assignment gone awry, rookie case officer Kyra Stryker is partnered with a straitlaced analyst with whom she investigates an imminent invasion of Taiwan by China that could trigger a global conflict.



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I 'discovered' Mark Henshaw with his 'Fall of Moscow Station' novel, which was actually his third in the 'Red Cell' CIA series. That one was pretty good and I liked his approach and subject matter, so I thought I'd cycle back and begin at the beginning. Glad I did!

I loved 'Red Cell', his first in the series. The writing is decent, which was my only quibble with this book, but the plot was great, the pace was intense, and the characters on their way to being well-developed and very likable. The action sequences, particularly those in the conclusion, were exciting and extremely realistic. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of tradecraft as well as the reasoning used by the CIA personnel to interpret past events and predict future ones.

The plot was tricky and involved the triangular relationship between China, Taiwan, and the US. An incident occurs on Taiwan, China decides to use it to escalate tensions, and the US needs to figure out what's going on and make the right choices. Without going into detail, it's quite believable.

If you're into 'spy novels and thrillers', this is a good one..... highly recommended! ( )
  gmmartz | Jun 21, 2016 |
A more serious espionage novel with less focus on action and more on analysis. That being said, the opening action sequence was extremely well done. The good news is that I really enjoyed the story and the characters, enough so that, as soon as I finished this book, I picked up the next title in the series.

I do want to note a few quibbles (that seem to carry through each of the books): First, one of the main characters (Kyra) is quite the tomboy, action hero. That's fine. But many of her characteristics make it seem as if she could have easily been written as a man. I'm not suggesting that I don't enjoy a female protagonist; to the contrary. But I hope, at some point, that Henshaw gives readers a bit more understanding of just why Kyra is the way she is (beyond just "she grew up in the country"). Second, the other main character (Jon) is often described as annoying or dislikable without a sense of humor. But he comes off both as a likeable character who does seem to crack wise from time to time. We're told over and over that people don't like him but I'm not sure that we really see why this is. Third, the author has a bit of trouble with timelines (though not as bad as the Ben Coes books...). As the series progresses, I kept having to re-think when certain events happened (was it 1 year ago or 3? wait, when did the President's term end?). Not major problems, but distracting enough to be ... distracting. ( )
  MSWallack | Mar 11, 2016 |
I read a lot of CIA thrillers, but "Red Cell" was vastly different than most. Here, we don't have a field agent like Mitch Rapp (Vince Flynn) who kicks ass all over the place to get the answers he needs by any means necessary. No, in "Red Cell," we follow a couple of analysts who work out the answers in a non-violent (sort of) way. So you can see, it's different than most books in the genre.

We follow Kyra Stryker, a rookie field agent who had a very bad introductory case, as she gets paired up with Jonathan Burke, a high-level analyst who runs Red Cell, the CIA's think-outside-the box analysis group. Their task is to determine why Chinese security agents have taken down some people in Taiwan. This attack also included the release of a deadly chemical.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Chinese native, but American spy Pioneer, who's high up in the Communist regime. Pioneer feels like he's been identified by his peers as a spy, and is desperately hoping the Americans can help him escape. Stryker and Burke are sent in to do just that.

Finally, we see China invade a small Taiwanese island and military vessel in a curious manner, leading Burke and Stryker to believe China has some technology that the Americans are not aware of.

"Red Cell" is very well written with pretty well-rounded characters. I do think it was a little odd that a rookie field agent would almost immediately catch the eye of CIA Director Kathy Cooke, who assigns her to help Burke in the Red Cell. The spycraft was done well, but I think some of the scenes were a little too coincidental and not realistic.

My assumption is that author Mark Henshaw is looking to create a series out of Stryker and Burke and I think he can succeed once Stryker, especially, gets a little more experience under her belt. ( )
  Jarratt | Feb 14, 2014 |
Nothing too outstanding here. Kyra Stryker is a CIA agent whose failed mission,in Venezuela has left her wounded and transferred back to the US. She's been placed in Intelligence and is working with Jonathon Burke, a brilliant analyst who rubs people the wrong way for always being right. Trouble is brewing between Taiwan and China which could cause another war the US doesn't want to be in. It's up to the intelligence to determine what is going on and to stop it before things escalate. ( )
  creighley | Feb 4, 2014 |
Kyra, an interesting name for a natural clandestine operative, albeit a rookie and a frustrated one at that. But she gets her chance. Red Cell takes us from South America through CIA Hq then to the PRC (China) and Taiwan. I thoughly enjoyed Mr. Henshaw's debut novel and look forward to many more. He is gifted with his prose, able to design an enjoyable plot and execute the story in an interesting fashion. ( )
  gwasher | Jan 4, 2014 |
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Reassigned to a CIA think tank in Langley after an assignment gone awry, rookie case officer Kyra Stryker is partnered with a straitlaced analyst with whom she investigates an imminent invasion of Taiwan by China that could trigger a global conflict.

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