"Black ops, treason and political corruption: Does it get any better than this?"
Reviewed by Viki Ferrell
Posted August 6, 2015
He goes by the code name "Watchman" and prefers to be
anonymous, to blend in with his surroundings. That keeps
him alive to take another contract job with the CIA. This
time, Marc Portman is called upon to extract Edwin Travis
from the Ukraine. Travis is a State Department official who
is on a fact-finding mission when he is taken at gunpoint
back to his hotel and told not to leave. Portman's job is
to get Travis out of the hotel and to his first cut-out, a
CIA asset in the Ukraine who will pass him on to the next
cut-out until he is out of the country. Sounds relatively
simple, but it's not.
Portman arrives in the Ukraine to find that Travis has been
moved to another hotel, heavily guarded by someone: could
be police, could be military, or could be pro-Russian
separatists. The Ukraine is a very fragile, volatile
country right now, and it's hard to tell who's who and
whose side they're on. Portman trusts none of them. With
MacGyver-like skills, Portman extracts Travis from the
hotel, but has several factions on his trail in the
process. He barely gets Travis to his first cut-out and on
the road to safety before a group of thugs come down on the
tiny apartment. The pass-off to the second cut-out is not
so smooth, and Portman ends up having to get Travis out of
the country himself. What a whirlwind ride they have in the
If you're a fan of military or political thrillers, CLOSE
QUARTERS is a just right for you. It's filled with plenty
of fire power, riveting action and lots of political plays.
You'll find everything from corrupt politicians to CIA
newbies in the characters portrayed in this story. It
toggles back and forth from the Ukraine to Washington, DC
and the close quarters of the CIA handler who guides
Portman along his way. Secrets keep leaking out, and we're
not sure if the Russians are after Portman and Travis or
someone in DC is out to have them exterminated. Throw in a
group of financial investors looking to make a profit off
of the political and economic situation in the Ukraine, and
you have a dynamic story. Adrian Magson blends fact with
fiction to bring us an incredible thriller, filled with
well-reasoned actions, confrontations and diversions. This
is the second book in Mr. Magson's Marc Portman series, but
it has enough background to be a great standalone read.
The return of The Watchman - deep cover specialist
Close protection specialist Marc Portman is used to
finding himself in hostile situations. But none can
be more unpredictable than troubled Ukraine, teetering on
the brink of civil war.
When a US State Department official on a fact-finding
mission to Ukraine is placed under house
arrest, the CIA hire Portman (codename: Watchman) to get
him safely out of the country. In that
dangerous and volatile region, Portman will find himself
up against local gangsters, Ukrainian Special
Forces, professional snipers, pro-Russian separatists and
power-crazed cops. What he cannot know
however is that his most lethal enemy comes from his own
ExcerptI watched the driver climb out of the car and ease his
back. He walked once round the vehicle, stamping his feet
to get the circulation going the way people do after a
long session behind the wheel with nothing to do but
drive and watch the road. He looked small and wiry, and
was wearing a brown leather coat and a cap with ear flaps
that hid his face, and moved like he was tired or old –
maybe both. He might have been an ordinary traveller on
this deserted back road who’d just happened on something
he didn’t want to see.
When he got back level with the hood he held something up
to his eye which caught the light. I knew then that he
was trouble. Ordinary travellers don’t carry spyglasses –
or what I guessed was more likely an optical gun-sight.
He was checking out my dead Toyota and the surrounding
landscape to see if I was out and in one piece.
When he got back to the driver’s door he e leaned in and
hauled something heavy out of the back seat, fiddled with
it for a second, then positioned himself over the hood in
a stance that I recognized only too well.
I eased down behind a large piece of moss-covered granite
and waited. I didn’t need to stick my head up for a
second look to see what he was doing; I’d seen all I
The man was holding what looked like an OSV-96 long-range
sniper’s rifle. It was hard to be sure at that distance,
but by its length and the way he hefted it, if I was
correct it was capable of taking out man, beast or
vehicle at anything up to a kilometre. And when fitted
with the optical gun-sight he’d be able to shoot the
pimples off a target’s face.
The target being me.
I looked across at the Toyota. From his elevated position
the shooter would have a grand-stand view of the vehicle.
He’d be asking himself if I was still inside, was I
banged up and trapped. Or dead. Even as I thought it, he
decided to check it out the only way he knew how.
The crack of a shot rolled across the open ground like
I ducked involuntarily. But the shot wasn’t aimed at me;
instead the rear window of the Toyota blew out in a spray
of glass on the driver’s side, and a ragged piece of the
radiator grill zinged off into the distance from the
other end. Heavy gauge shells do that; they go right on
through, mashing up whatever gets in their way. Fabric.
Another shot and the same thing happened, this time on
the passenger side. He was playing now, but making sure
at the same time, drilling the car on both sides. A third
shot rang out and the car was toast.
Incendiary round. Intended for light-armoured vehicles
and buildings, and certain death for a light-skinned 4WD,
especially when aimed at the fuel tank.
I gave it a count of ten while I watched the burning car
push a column of thickening black smoke into the air,
accompanied by the popping of the three remaining tyres
and the clank of overheated metal. Then I risked a quick
look. The Isuzu was still in place on the rise.
But the shooter had disappeared.
I rolled away, keeping the rock between us, and slid into
the gulley. There was no point going back to the car, so
I grabbed my bag and began running up the gulley towards
the rise. I had no massive plan in mind; this was all or
nothing. But one way of facing off danger is to do what
is least expected and run towards it. The man with the
rifle had the upper hand at whatever distance he chose,
and there was no way I could outrun him. So going out
into open country was pointless. All I had was my
overnight kit, a small pair of binoculars and a powerful
desire to keep living.
It was tough going. I was still dizzy from the crash and
found the rough ground difficult to navigate underfoot.
And the need to bend forward at the waist to prevent
breaking cover was enough to make me stop to catch my
Which was lucky for me, because that’s when I heard him
coming down towards me.
He’d reached a particularly steep part of the terrain and
his momentum, coupled I guessed with the idea that I was
being roasted in the upturned vehicle, had made him
careless; he was also moving too fast and kicking up dirt
underfoot which pinpointed his position and progress.
He’d moved up on to higher ground at the side of the
gulley to get a better view, so I hugged the ground
beneath an overhang of earth and coarse grass and waited,
counting the seconds to help me focus.
As his shadow appeared above me, I launched myself
upwards over the lip of the gulley and hit him with my
shoulder at waist level. It was all or nothing.
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