Bishop’s Endgame: A Spy Game Novel
by Michael Frost Beckner
Montrose Station Press

"Why do we have to know anything? Learn the secrets that are set in war canoes upon the river to kill us?"

All things must eventually come to an end, even for those who seem like they will never taste mortality. Nathan Muir is such a person whose feats have become legendary, often to the chagrin of the Acting CIA Director Harker. Fast forwarding a decade from Spy Game, it has been a few days since Muir's murder, and his own son, Tom Bishop, is considered the prime suspect. To complicate matters, Russell Aiken, likely the only person with whom Bishop has a real connection, is finally given the opportunity to fulfill his dream as a CIA field agent, only to carry out the mission of terminating Bishop. It is here that the chess game resumes. The entire board can be wiped clean for the CIA if Aiken and Bishop take each other out. With Muir already gone, all three of their thorns will be removed in one fell swoop.

The same Beckner flair is omnipresent in the writing as backstory and mystery merge almost seamlessly with frenetic action scenes. The end product is an exhilarating rollercoaster of adventure and intrigue, a mystique that adds to the lore of Bishop and Muir. Perhaps where the narrative goes even more "next-level" is in the character development, delivering an Inception-like web of mystery unraveling throughout the storyline's progression. In particular, seeing that Bishop has a pulse and isn't just a soulless killing machine is gratifying. His dynamic with Lara van Eijk and the constant juxtaposition with his late wife, Elizabeth, demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are far deeper layers to Bishop and that these are worth the audience's wait as the novel reaches its natural conclusion.

The plot begins when Muir is found murdered, the murder itself becoming more a mystery than a crime scene. It thickens when Muir's global connection of spy networks goes offline with only one spy remaining: Dand van Eijk. Never one to have coincidences, Beckner weaves a tightly spun novel where every character's actions have a purpose, even if that action was taken by Muir all the way back in 1968 as a foreshadowing of events to come.

With the line between truth and lie blurring, the chess game takes audiences to Malaysia—and Kuala Lumpur specifically—for an ultimate battle between Bishop and Aiken. Yet, in the midst of it all, there are critical references and scenes that are simply mind-numbing, reflecting a change in tenor when it comes to drawing the line. In particular, as they embark upon a hair-raising adventure in their Land Rover, Lara and Bishop find themselves in the middle of a deadly police shooting during a riot and, not long after, a bloodbath in the name of jihad. Beckner has a knack for adding color and detail that bring the stories to life with his words, and these scenes are no different. They are gut-wrenching and thought-provoking, sure to make readers wonder what the value of human life is and where the line must be drawn if not at children?

In a nutshell, the mythology of Nathan Muir is nothing short of epic, and nothing he says or does should be ignored. For instance, a flask in his office coincidentally belongs to the lone remaining agent on his spy network. As the narrative introduces new players like Muir's student, Amy Kim, and references bygone characters like Jewel, the consensus that can be reached is that everything and everyone is connected to Muir. In a game of deceit, betrayal, and secrets, love and attachment, in their unique variations, reign supreme. Electric from the get-go, Beckner's sequel is a supercharged fireball, a raging inferno of action and thrill, a game that is as dependent on its pawns as its rooks, queens, and bishops to cover the gamut from espionage to simply what it means to be human and a byproduct of one's circumstances.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home