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Dance with the dragon
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, 2007.
Physical Description:
382 p. ; 24 cm.


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The CIA is on edge. All signs indicate that something is coming at the United States. Perhaps another 9/11, maybe bigger. The body of CIA agent Louis Updegraf ends up on the steps of the US Embassy in Mexico. His last operation was to tap into the communications of the Chinese Embassy, but there is no record of why. He appeared to be freelancing and the Agency must scramble to get a clue as to what he was after.
Kirk McGarvey, serving as a visiting professor at the University of Florida, is once again longing for the action of the field. So when his old friend Otto Rencke asks him to help figure out the connection between China and the murdered agent, it takes almost no effort to get McGarvey up and running.
The only informant they can find is an enigmatic Iranian belly dancer--the dark and lovely Shahrzad Shadmand. But her story changes with the wind, and her knowledge of McGarvey's past is uncanny. Kirk McGarvey must unravel her shattered mind to get to something that might resemble the truth.

Author Notes

David Hagberg was born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota. After graduating from high school, he joined the Air Force and was trained as a cryptographer. During his career, he was stationed in Greenland and in Germany. He studied physics, mathematics and philosophy at the University of Maryland, Overseas Division and the University of Wisconsin. He worked as a cub reporter on the Duluth Herald and News-Tribune and as a news desk editor for the Associated Press. His first novel, Twister, was published in 1975. He has written over 70 suspense novels including The White House, Joshua's Hammer, Desert Fire, and High Flight. He won three Mystery Scene Magazine Best American Mystery awards for Countdown, Crossfire, and Critical Mass. His Sean Flannery novel, The Kremlin Letter, was also nominated for an American Book Award.

David Hagberg passed away on September 8, 2019 at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Hagberg's solid 10th thriller to feature ex-CIA director Kirk McGarvey (after Allah's Scorpion), McGarvey leaves retirement to look into the shooting death of a CIA operative in Chihuahua, Mexico. At the center of the mystery is Chinese superagent Gen. Liu Hung, who from his embassy compound in Mexico City throws lavish parties replete with underage whores for Mexican and U.S. officials. This is an espionage tale of deep intrigue, puzzles wrapped in enigmas, triple crosses and brutal murders perpetrated by ruthless killers-and those are just the CIA guys. At times, the action slows while traditional tradecraft is meticulously described and various characters sit around tables trying to figure out what's really going on. Hagberg is known for being prescient about terrorist events, and the finale sets up the terrifying challenge McGarvey will face in the next installment. One can only hope America's real-life enemies haven't thought to study this series. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

The Kirk McGarvey series steamrolls along in this twelfth installment. McGarvey, the former CIA assassin, is teaching at the University of Florida, but he's restless. When the body of a CIA agent, who may have been working off the books, is dumped at the U.S. embassy in Mexico, Kirk jumps at the chance to find out what the man was up to and who is responsible for his death. Under two names (this one and Sean Flannery), Hagberg writes very manly thrillers: hard-edged plots, muscular dialogue, tough-as-nails male characters, and it must be said female characters who seem to have been written by someone who has never actually seen a woman up close. On the other hand, the novel moves at a brisk clip, and you can't say Hagberg doesn't deliver the goods the action is nonstop, and McGarvey gets what he was craving: a chance to get back out in the field and put his life on the line.--Pitt, David Copyright 2007 Booklist

Kirkus Review

It's McGarvey vs. al-Qaeda when thrillermeister Hagberg cranks out the old formula for the 33rd time (Soldier of God, 2005, etc.). Is Kirk McGarvey--"the best field officer the CIA has ever had"--permanently on the shelf? Could it really be true he intends to take that post "teaching Voltaire" at the New School? Though it's hard to believe, that's what he's been saying. But suddenly, U.S. President Laurence Haynes and his inner circle are confronted with the kind of geopolitical nightmare to which there is only one viable response: Send for our killing machine. So they do, and though Katy, McGarvey's cute, long-suffering wife, does what she can to bar the door, the old warhorse, now 50, is off and running. This time out, Osama bin Laden's doomsday operation is called The Serpent's Tooth, and it has to do with smart nuclear submarines sneaking by U.S. security and getting close enough to launch terrible things at the vulnerable mainland. Aiding bin Laden in this darksome venture is a disaffected ex-British naval officer, the brilliant and unscrupulous Rupert Graham, who is adept enough at murder that he can single-handedly wipe out an entire 15-person ship's crew in the time it takes to say pistol-fitted-with-a-silencer. Enough, the president's men inform each other: Bin Laden and his homicidal henchman have had it their way too long; get McGarvey saddled up. And so the stage is set--their killing machine against ours--while Western civilization bites its nails. Pretty tired stuff. Maybe it's time for McGarvey to try out that new career. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Chapter 1 The foothills of northern Mexico's Sierra Madre were bathed in the cold silver light of a full October moon as Louis Updegraf stopped a moment behind a stand of pine trees to catch his breath. Somehow everything had gone horribly wrong over the past two weeks, and this evening he was running for his life because of what he'd learned. The job was no longer a game. At thirty-three he was a tall man, well built, with a dark complexion and a large Gallic nose. Not so long ago, someone he thought was a friend had told him that he could be Gerard Depardieu's twin bother. He'd thought the French actor was good, but not very handsome. But that was the story of his life; there was always something not quite right. He had come west, just below the crests of the hills, and he figured by now he was at least three miles from the compound. The city of Chihuahua was spread out below in the valley, and as he took out his 9 mm Beretta 92F and ejected the magazine to check the pistol's load for the third time, an Aeromexico 727 took off from CUU Airport in the distance and headed southeast toward Mexico City. He was supposed to be on that flight, he reflected bitterly. From here it was a long walk. But if he could get into town he could call for help, though how he would explain his presence up here he hadn't figured out. First things first. He had to stay alive long enough to reach a telephone. He stepped out from the shelter of the trees and continued west, angling down into the valley where he thought he could intercept the highway to Cuauhtémoc. From there it might be possible to get a ride into Chihuahua, provided the Doll's people didn't catch up with him. In high school in Madison, Wisconsin, he had been an all-star quarterback on the football team, and he had gone to UW to study political science on a four-year football scholarship. In his senior year he had taken the school to the Rose Bowl, and in the eleven years since then he'd not let himself get out of shape. It was one thing in his life that he was proud of, one thing that no one could take away from him. He was dressed lightly, in blue jeans, T-shirt, and windbreaker, sneakers on his feet, and although the mountain air was chilly at this hour he was sweating by the time he reached the power lines two hundred meters southwest. The high-voltage lines came down to the city in a broad swath cut through the trees. Once again Updegraf halted up in the shelter of the forest. It was possible that no one was coming for him. But it was equally possible not only that they were somewhere behind him, but that they may have doubled around and gotten ahead of him. It was possible that Roaz's shooters were right now waiting in the woods across the fifty-meter grassy lane that was lit up like day. He nervously switched the safety catch to the off position, and then on again. It would be just his rotten luck to stumble on a rock and shoot himself. Save the opposition the trouble. Cocking an ear, he held his breath to listen for something, a snatch of conversation, a rustling branch, a dislodged rock tumbling down the hill. But except for the sounds of a hunting bird in the distance, perhaps a hawk or a screech howl, and the light breeze in the treetops, the hillside was silent. Updegraf weighed his chances. Miguel Roaz and the people working for him were smart, but then they had been trained by Chinese intelligence, so they knew their jobs well. On top of that they were highly motivated. There was a lot of money involved. A fabulous amount of money. More than any of them could possibly grasp. "Señor, please to put down your weapon," someone called from across the clearing. Updegraf's heart lurched. He stepped back, and as he switched the safety catch off and started to raise his pistol, someone was right behind him, the muzzle of a gun pressed to the base of his skull. "Don't do anything foolish," a man speaking English with a heavy Mexican accent warned. Louis didn't recognize the voice, but he could have been any one of the dozen security people from the compound. He didn't know them all. But the fact that he and the other one were here meant that they knew he'd gone over the wall almost immediately after he'd tried to drive into town and been turned back. "What do you want?" he asked. "The camera. It wasn't in your car, which means you must have it with you." "Then what?" Updegraf asked. There wasn't a chance in hell they would let him leave here alive even if he gave them the digital camera that had been used to snap pictures of the guests, especially the new one whose presence had come as a total surprise. He had to survive to call this home. The Mexican laughed softly. "Then you can either come back to the house for your car, or continue with your hike in the woods." Updegraf weighed his chances, which didn't seem very good. The muzzle of a pistol was pressed firmly against the back of his skull. If he tried to duck or turn suddenly so that he could bring his own pistol to bear, he would most likely get a bullet in the head. But he had no other options. What he'd learned was too important. "Okay, you win," he said. He started to reach into his jacket pocket, but the Mexican jammed the pistol even harder. "First drop your gun." Updegraf suddenly felt calm, the same way he had just before every key play in a football game. All he could do was his best. "You're going to shoot me anyway--," he said, and he suddenly turned away as he brought his pistol up over his left shoulder. A thunderclap burst inside his head, and for an instant he saw a billion stars all cascading one over the other. The sight was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Mexico City CIA station chief Gilbert Perry parked his smoked silver Mercedes 500SL in his spot behind the U.S. embassy on Paseo de la Reforma a full hour before his customary time of nine in the morning, and took the ambassador's elevator up to his suite of offices on the fourth floor. Tom Chauncy, his number two, had telephoned at six this morning telling him to get his ass to the embassy. Something so big was up that it could not be discussed on an open line. "We goddamned well might have to shut down the entire operation until we get this shit straightened out!" Chauncy had shouted. Perry, who'd prided himself on his cool demeanor under fire--he'd spent three months in Kabul and a full thirty days doing dirty duty at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib--was irritated. He damned well was going to have it out with Thomas. Gentlemen simply did not lose their heads in a crisis, and they certainly did not speak to a superior officer in such a peremptory fashion, no matter what the reason. A report of this incident would be placed in Chauncy's personnel jacket. At six three, with a slender build, penetrating blue eyes, a narrow angular face, and a thick head of hair parted down the middle that had turned gray when he was in his freshman year at Harvard, Perry was called "the Judge" by friends, a sobriquet he discouraged, but one that he secretly enjoyed. His cover as special assistant for cultural affairs gave him the opportunity to mingle socially with President Ricardo Sabina and other high-ranking Mexican government officials, as well as with the upper echelons of the foreign diplomatic corps here. Symphonies, operas, ballets, fine restaurants, hunting lodges in the mountains, lavish fishing retreats along the Gulf and Pacific coasts, and a nearly endless stream of cocktail parties, receptions, and full dress balls, all were exactly his cup of tea. He'd confided to a friend in Washington that at thirty-eight he was young for this sort of duty, but being here was preparing him for the eventuality of becoming the deputy director of Central Intelligence. It was a position he felt he'd been born for. When Perry got off the elevator, Chauncy appeared at the end of the corridor, at the door to the secure room that they used as a conference center. Other than the communications center in the basement, the conference room was the safest spot in the entire embassy. It was electronically and mechanically shielded from the outside world. Whatever was said or done there was perfectly immune to any means of surveillance. Except for humint--human intelligence, Perry thought as he walked down the hall. "What's all this fuss about?" "Glad you're here, finally," Chauncy said. He stepped aside. "Inside." Perry followed him into the windowless room, the first glimmerings of doubt entering his mind. At forty-five Chauncy was too old, too overweight, and too much of a blue-collar man ever to rise higher in the CIA than he already was, but his was generally a steady hand in a situation. But this morning it was plain that the man was concerned, even frightened. Chauncy closed the door and flipped the light switch that operated the door lock and activated the electronic countersurveillance equipment. "It's about Louis," he said. Perry's stomach did a slow, sour roll. "What about him?" he asked, careful to keep his voice level. "He's dead. Took a bullet to the side of his head." "Good Lord," Perry said softly, and he sat down at the long conference table. "Where?" he asked. "I said a bullet to the side of his head." Perry looked up. "No, I mean where was he found? Who found him? I hope to God it wasn't Janet." Janet was Updegraf's wife. She and Louis had a trendy apartment in the city's La Condesa neighborhood. She was a cow who stupidly trusted everything her husband told her, but nobody deserved to find her husband lying in a pool of blood. "It wasn't Janet. Someone from the Red Cross up in Chihuahua called the switchboard a couple hours ago, said they needed to talk to someone in security. It was about a dead American whose body had been dumped in front of the hospital's emergency-room entrance. So the locator called me." "Good heavens," Perry cried. "What was he doing all the way up there?" "I haven't a clue," Chauncy admitted. "I was hoping that you might know something." Perry felt as if he was going to be sick at his stomach. "Are we absolutely positive that it was Louis?" "It gets worse, Gil," Chauncy said. "The people at the hospital found his ID. They didn't know what to do with it, so they turned it over to the Red Cross along with his other belongings." "What do you mean, his ID?" "Just that," Chauncy said. "His CIA identification card." CIA officers in the field never carried anything that could link them to the Company. It just wasn't done. "That's not possible," Perry said. "They gave a good description." Perry closed his eyes for a moment to give himself time to think. The entire CIA operation in Mexico could easily unravel over this incident. If that happened it would be the chief of station who took the fall. "I want you to get up there right now and put a lid on it," Perry said. "This hits the media and we're dead. In the meantime I'll do what I can here to put out any fires that might develop." "What about Louis's body?" Chauncy asked. "I don't care," Perry said, but then he changed his mind. "No, get it out of Mexico. Fly it up to the Air Force hospital in San Antonio and have it autopsied." He shook his head. "Tell them that Louis did not commit suicide. He was murdered, and I want the proof." Copyright (c) 2007 by David Hagberg. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Dance with the Dragon by David Hagberg All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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