What’s love got to do with it?
Yes, The Last Enemy is a thriller, but there is a love story between the two central characters that plays out through the course of the book. Its journey is just as integral to the story as the central plot. Being a spy is a lonely affair. The word “spy” alone creates barriers to having a romantic life. It requires you to be a professional liar to the people in your life, while ensuring their safety and freedom and the Homeland’s. People are far cleverer and observant that we give them credit for—especially romantic partners. So while plausible deniability might work in Washington, it doesn’t work long between lovers.
Honestly, I’ve always hated it when the hero, in some avowal of love, reveals their secret identity. In Monk’s world there could be no confessions about his profession. Admitting who he really is—simply not an option. Not many field agents get to leave so cleanly they go live quietly somewhere. So I didn’t run away from that bleakness, I embraced it. Joining the CIA instantly and immutably defined the course of Simon Monk and Ben Namajunas’s relationship. In effect ending it because Monk, wanted the profession more. And why wouldn’t he? Bitter personal betrayal from the two things he held dearest ruined him emotionally. So he decided and didn’t look back.
Seeing Ben again unearths all of the feelings Monk has about the longing, the wanting to be in love. It forces Monk to face the danger that presents to him in the world he lives in.
Highly decorated Delta Force operator and Iraq war hero Simon Monk loses everything when his romantic partner defects to Beijing after being caught selling US secrets to Chinese Intelligence. Monk is drummed out of the Army from the blowback but gets a second chance at a career when he is recruited into a covert group within the CIA.
Years later Monk’s latest assignment sends him to Cairo, where the head of station has disappeared amid a highly publicized sex scandal. But things are not what they seem. When the base chief turns up dead and the Egyptian government looks the other way, Monk and his team hunt down the assassin.
All roads lead to a ruthless and lethal cult from Egypt’s ancient past who discard every unwritten rule of espionage to win. Monk is forced to take to the shadows to find and destroy his most dangerous adversaries yet, as a chain of events threatens to ignite war in the Middle East.
The damage to Faraq’s face was severe. Both his eyes were ghastly, swollen shut; he was bloody and beaten nearly beyond reason. He hissed like a leaky ventilator when he breathed through his shattered nose.
“That looks painful,” Monk said.
“I fucking hope so,” Ben answered.
“Not him. Your hand.” Monk took Ben’s battered hand and surveyed his bruised knuckles. “I’ve been there. I’ve picked up a trick or two that’ll help with the swelling.” Monk shifted his gaze to Faraq. “He’s a big fucker, isn’t he?”
“Yes, but not skilled. Not that he has to be. He makes up what he lacks in skill with brute force. I don’t think I’ve ever been hit so hard in my life. It’s no wonder he made short work of Truly. He didn’t stand a chance.”
“Has he said anything at all?”
“Not a sound, even in protest. Not even when hit. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he was enjoying it.”
Monk stared through the glass at Faraq.
“Let me have a word,” Monk said.
Daniels stood as sentinel in the hall outside the door.
Monk opened the door and entered the small twelve-by-twelve concrete room that was a starker, stripped-down version of the hallway, with concrete floors and bare fluorescents. He slapped Faraq in the face to rouse him. The assassin was barely able to keep his head up as he focused his remaining functioning eye on Monk’s face.
“I know you killed Jack Truly. I can call in a professional interrogator and have you rendered to a black site to get the name of who secured your services to do it. But maybe you still wouldn’t crack.”
Faraq’s swollen, battered lids were little more than dangling meat. They parted, and the big man stared at Monk. A sort of smile twisted his gory lips.
“You don’t scare me, American,” he muttered.
“You’re not going to be charged with murder. Guantanamo has enough of you fuck-sticks interned. Instead, I had my case officers put the word out on the street that we have you. I personally told the director of GID myself.” Monk smiled frostily. “So, now you’ve become the worst thing you can be in this profession—a liability. I’m the fucking CIA, so every employer you’ve ever had will take one look at you and come to question if your loose lips have compromised them and their operations. It’s one of the perks of having a reputation like ours,” Monk said sarcastically. “I imagine you’ve worked for a pretty unsavory lot. I’m also positive that if I drop you off in Tahrir Square, there will be a line of individuals waiting to scoop you up and do far worse to you than my associate did.”
In the flash of a second, the killer’s demeanor completely changed. Monk pondered what type of individual could engender so much immediate fear in a stone-cold killer like Faraq. He pushed the troubling thought aside for the moment.
“One question, then, to save your life: Where did you bury the men you killed?”
Knowing nothing else about the man standing over him, Faraq could see that there was genuine cruelty lurking within him.
He nodded. “I will tell you where I put the faggots.”
Monk’s response was instantaneously violent. He planted his left foot in the thug’s chest, sending both him and chair toppling over backward. Faraq’s head met the concrete floor with a smack that rendered him unconscious. Monk moved to the door and knocked for Daniels to come and let him out.
“Rouse him, Sergeant. He’ll tell you where he buried our people,” Monk spat, then stepped from the room.
Monk and a squad of Marines found Jack’s and Aron’s bodies in a shallow grave beneath a rubbish pile in the “Garbage City” slum of Manshiet Nasser, right where Faraq had said they would be. The state of their decomposed cadavers shocked even Monk. He took some small solace in the fact that they were at least buried together. They found the remains of the doctor a few feet away from Truly, buried in similar fashion. The man had died a ghastly death. His rapidly decayed body showed that his sternum had been severely crushed into the anterior mediastinum, rupturing the heart—likely from being stomped to death.
Kate was there to meet Monk and receive the bodies when he and the Marine detail returned.
“Someone will need to see to the doctor’s body being returned to his family,” Monk said flatly. “Stick to the cover story. The truth may put them at undue risk.”
Kate couldn’t take her gaze off Jack’s and Aron’s corpses. “I’ll personally see that it’s done.”
“I’ll have our guest off campus within the hour.” He showed no emotion, his face an empty field.
Kate nodded. “Thank you.”
Seeing the state of Truly’s remains, she pondered her earlier altruism regarding their killer. For a brief moment, she considered letting Monk act on his executive privilege.
Christian Beck saw Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia when he was a wee boy on a giant white drive-in screen in Super Panavision 70 amid the dusty Iowan cornfields, shaping his idea of what storytelling was. It stuck. Seldom does he write anything less than sweeping, epic adventures that pit his characters against some instrument or agent of death, pushing them beyond their every limit to survive. Simply put: Cinema put in words. He does that on a Surface Pro tablet sitting somewhere in the desert with his family – far, far away from those cornfields of the American Heartland.