For the last several months, I have been watching an interesting and intriguing introduction take place in the field of thriller literature. Mark Sullivan introduced a new character named Robin Monarch over a period of six months or so this year by rolling out three engaging and intriguing novellas, each complete in itself. The three offerings --- BROTHERHOOD, THE ART OF RENDITION and ESCAPE ARTIST --- not only provide a lead-in to ROGUE but also give the reader some background on Monarch’s early life as an orphan on the rough streets of Buenos Aires. While it is not necessary at all to read what has gone before to fully enjoy his latest, your enjoyment of it nonetheless will be enhanced by reading what has gone before. Those, however, who have read the first three installments already know what to expect and will find their anticipation filled and patience rewarded, for ROGUE is a joy to read from beginning to end.
"Sullivan has demonstrated from his first novel that he is seemingly incapable of writing badly; with ROGUE, he takes his game to an entirely new and higher level. He never hits a low point, never trips, and never stops."
It would be easy to characterize the book’s introduction as smart marketing, sharp publicity, or any other term one might care to use, but what Sullivan has been engaging in here is nothing more or less than excellent, creative storytelling. Period. Monarch, who spent his teens as a gang member and his early adult years in the U.S. Special Forces, is a CIA operative who turns his back on his job and the agency --- right in the middle of an operation --- when he unexpectedly learns a startling secret about his employer that leaves him disillusioned and angry. Monarch, possessing a skill set acquired as a street urchin and further developed by the American military, cannot stay idle for long. He sets up a security consultancy service that soon finds itself in demand. The real money, however, is in the clandestine aspect of Monarch’s work, which consists of misappropriating high ticket items for those willing to pay a high ticket price.
Things come to an extremely interesting turn of events when Monarch is hired by two different --- and diametrically opposed --- principals who want the same object and are dangling very big carrots in front of him as enticements. The object is a very deadly and unique weapon. As for the interested parties, one is a Russian Mafioso who is offering Monarch several million dollars as a finder’s fee as well as the return of a kidnapped woman who is Monarch’s love interest. The other is Monarch’s former C.I.A. boss, who is offering Monarch a “get out of jail free” card in the form of a clean-paper return to the Agency. Monarch, of course, wants it all, and a bit of his own back besides.
Sullivan starts the clock ticking across time zones as the action shifts from Langley to Switzerland to Ukraine, as well as several other ports-of-call, exotic and otherwise, including Buenos Aires, a place that Monarch knows all too well. As ROGUE moves through a series of corkscrew twists and turns, Monarch finds his past --- at several different points --- coming back not only to haunt him but also to put him in danger as well.
Sullivan has demonstrated from his first novel that he is seemingly incapable of writing badly; with ROGUE, he takes his game to an entirely new and higher level. He never hits a low point, never trips, and never stops. This tale of intrigue, danger, justice and vengeance just keeps moving right until the very end. And that ending? As with its three shorter predecessors, ROGUE is complete in itself, but the conclusion will leave you impatiently waiting for the next installment. Don’t peek, but read.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 5, 2012