They are old. They have been in the military, many on dangerous or clandestine missions. They have useful skills that could be of value to an organization like the CIA. They are bored, lonely, and looking to get back in the game.
The CIA, writes author Kip Cassino, gets 15,000 letters a week from these so-called “Old Dogs” looking to volunteer to serve their country. Only a few make the “Potential” folder; it’s a stretch to think they will be contacted.
If Cassino’s novel Oldogs (BookBaby) was nothing more than an international political thriller with an intriguing plot and turn-the-page suspense, it would have succeeded on those terms alone.
Yet the author, a Vietnam veteran who has assembled nuclear weapons in South Korea, takes it up a unique notch by introducing us to the Oldogs (the popular shortened version) and having two of them play a central role in his narrative.
NUCLEAR BOMBS OR KNITTING BEES? NO CONTEST
When federal government budget cuts choke the CIA’s ability to put agents in the field to be the eyes and ears of important cases, enter the Oldogs. They’re not in search of money, not even glory, but just a chance to feel alive again.
That’s how Barney Stack and Josephine DiVolli find themselves back in boot camp running miles, slogging through mud, escaping their captives in intricate war games, and eventually being sent to Mexico to gather whatever data they can about a terrorist plot to drop nuclear bombs on two major North American destinations.
The author uses an engaging technique to introduce the Oldogs, showing their letters to the CIA at the start of the first few chapters and providing insight into their motivations. Says Stack, “I don’t need a paycheck; I’ve got nobody to send it to. And you won’t have to think up a cover for how I passed away, if it happens. There’s nobody around who cares.”
DiVolli’s reasoning is simple; “I need something to do. Liquor isn’t the answer, and I’m no good at bridge or canasta. Nor do I knit.”
SKILLFULLY ADVANCING A STRATEGIC STORYLINE
The terrorist scheme in itself is an intricate tapestry that Cassino navigates adeptly, moving from central Asia to Cyprus to Colombia to Cancun and Miami. He introduces enough characters to make readers wonder who is at the helm and who will make it to the finish line, if any. One main “character” is a coffin-like container being transported by the plotters from one location to another, its contents not always known to its carriers but worth billions to those orchestrating its journey.
Cassino skillfully advances his detailed storyline while keeping readers peeled to the personalities and relationship of Stack and DiVolli, two senior citizens flung into a dangerous assignment and dealing with each other’s needs.
While Cassino is a marvelous storyteller, he also has a flair for description. Of Lulu Belle, an analyst in the CIA’ s Russia section, he writes that she “greeted the world through a mop of scalding red hair, piled high above her forehead, cut just above shifting, porcine eyes that hid behind bottle-lensed, tortoise-framed glasses. A sharply hooked nose sat above the wide slash of her mouth, which displayed an array of large, corked teeth when open to growl or yell.”
Oldogs is a fun thriller that keeps readers on their toes and has them caring for our two protagonists. It’s a well-researched, well-executed and well-written work that is sure to please any fan of the genre.