Below is an excerpt from the thriller Shadow Target by David Ricciardi!
About the book:
SHADOW TARGET (Berkley Hardcover; June 2021), finds Jake Keller on a list of CIA agents that have been picked off. Jake doesn’t know who is trying to kill him and he doesn’t know why. Still, it’s a threat he can’t ignore.
When his small plane crashes in the Alps, Jake is the only survivor. A rescue helicopter soon arrives, but the men inside are not there to save anyone. They are determined to complete the murderous job they started.
Jake escapes from the mountainside deathtrap, but it won’t be the only attempt on his life. If he’s to have any chance at surviving, he’ll have to find out who’s behind the killings. But the circle of people Jake can trust is distressingly small as he suspects that someone inside the Agency is feeding his every move to the very people who are trying to end his life.
Jake’s quest takes him to the candle-lit cathedrals of Paris and the rain-slicked streets of London. He makes contact with old friends and new enemies along the way–but his true nemesis may be closer than he imagines.
JAKE CLIPPED HIS access badge onto his jacket and walked across the CIA seal into the original headquarters building. The white marble lobby was dramatic, meant to inspire confidence and reflect enlightenment. Jake passed the Memorial Wall, where stars had been carved into the stone for the CIA employees who’d lost their lives in service to the country. In front of the wall was the Book of Honor. It held the names of the dead and blank lines for those who had lost their lives in times and places that could never be revealed. Many of the men had died in plane crashes. It was a hazard of an occupation that often demanded spur of the-moment access to dangerous places.
A well-known hazard.
Jake took the elevator down three levels to Ted Graves’s office. Graves was Jake’s boss and the shadowy chief of CIA’s paramilitary Special Activities Center. He usually worked out of a nondescript building several miles away but also had an office at headquarters. He’d summoned Jake to the U.S. two days after the crash—on the very afternoon he’d been released from the hospital.
“They’re in the conference room,” said Graves’s assistant.
They, thought Jake. Ted hadn’t mentioned anyone else.
Graves was seated across the table, facing the door. Somewhere in his forties—everything about Ted was vague and mysterious—he was wearing a suit with no jacket or tie, and his sleeves rolled up to expose his muscular forearms. He prided himself on the two hours he spent in the gym every day in addition to the twelve to fourteen he spent in the office.
Next to him was Christine Kirby, his chief deputy at the center. A few years older than Jake, she was a former West Point swimmer and army helicopter pilot. Her unkempt strawberry blond hair and indifferent gaze camouflaged a sharp intellect and a provocative wit. She’d worked with Graves since he was Chief of Operations at CIA’s London Station and was universally respected, if not particularly liked.
“Have a seat.” Graves wasn’t big on chitchat.
Jake lowered himself into one of the upholstered chairs.
“What’s going on?” said Graves.
“The doctors said I’ll need—”
“I don’t care about your injuries. They’ll heal. Where is your head at?”
Graves wasn’t big on sympathy either.
Jake loved what he did. Protecting his fellow citizens and what his country stood for was what got him out of bed every morning. He had seen firsthand the evil in the world and felt it was his moral obligation to eradicate as much of it as he could, but he and Graves clashed mightily when Jake’s conscience wouldn’t allow him to execute a mission he felt was unethical, and the two men had reached an impasse a few weeks earlier while Jake was deployed to Africa.
In Graves’s defense, he wasn’t the one setting policy. The Special Activities Center executed orders that came from higher up the food chain—usually from the country’s political leadership—and what was distasteful on a tactical level was often necessary on a strategic level. While Graves’s methods were often harsh, he was exceedingly good at what he did. He’d pointed out that Jake’s mission was only one small piece of the larger national security puzzle and that Special Activities would lose its effectiveness altogether if every field operative second-guessed his orders.
It had become heated.
Jake had countered that the end didn’t always justify the means—especially when innocent lives hung in the balance, as they had in Africa, but Graves had insisted that Jake ignore the collateral damage and focus on the long-term goals.
It had ended with Graves, and a few people Jake trusted, telling him to take some time off and think about whether he still wanted to be part of the Special Activities Center. The trip to Courchevel was supposed to be the first week of a one-month leave of absence.
“I haven’t made a decision,” Jake said.
“One foot in and one foot out doesn’t work for me.”
“Don’t lecture me, Ted. I’ve sacrificed everything for this job.”
And while Jake loved what he did, it had cost him a great deal. Orphaned at fourteen after the deaths of his parents, he’d spent the next fourteen years rebuilding his life—only to have it all taken away during his first mission in the field. A foreign government had framed him for murder in an effort to discredit him and cut off CIA support. When it was over, Ted Graves had forced Jake to have plastic surgery, change his identity, and cut contact with everyone he’d ever known. At twenty-eight years old, Jake had started over in a career he couldn’t discuss, traveling to the most dangerous places on earth, and routinely being placed in kill or be killed situations. It had sucked the joy from his life and left him very much alone.
“People like us aren’t meant to lead normal lives,” Graves said without a hint of empathy.
“Jake,” interjected Kirby, “tell me about the crash.”
Like he’d flipped a switch, Jake ceased glaring at Graves and smiled at Kirby.
“I don’t remember it. We were flying straight and level through a valley and the next thing I knew I was being winched into a rescue helicopter, strapped to a litter, and thinking I was paralyzed. The French doctors say I have post-traumatic amnesia.”
“What about the weather?” asked the former aviator.
“Clear skies, no turbulence.”
“Any indications of mechanical malfunction?”
“Zero,” said Jake.
Kirby frowned. “Ted, we should look into this.”
“Let’s see what the French come up with before we kick the hornet’s nest,” said Graves. He glanced at his watch. “I’ve got another meeting upstairs.”
Jake scowled. He’d had flown in from Europe for the five-minute meeting. Graves wasn’t into face time or demeaning his subordinates— everything the man did was measured and planned—which meant that he’d summoned Jake across the pond for another reason, something as yet unspoken. Graves walked around the table, put his hand on Jake’s shoulder, and looked him over from head to toe.
“Crazy stuff, that plane crash. I can’t believe you survived.”
“Do me a favor,” Graves continued. “Check in with me here every few days. I want to know the second that ‘amnesia’ of yours clears up.”
“Excerpted from SHADOW TARGET by David Ricciardi, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by David Ricciardi”