As Jericho's Fall opens Rebecca DeForde is navigating the treacherous, wintry roads that lead to the remote compound of her former lover--the "Former Everything" as he is often known, sometimes affectionately, sometimes not--Jericho Ainsley. The former Director of Central Intelligence, Secretary of Defense, White House National Security Advisor--well, the Former Everything--is dying, and despite their having shared only 18 months together, 15 years earlier, Beck is rushing to his side.
Ainsley having many, many years earlier honed his paranoia (as so many in the intelligence business do) to a fine, sharp edge, Rebecca is not surprised to find that Stone Heights, "Jericho's pretentious name for his mountain redoubt," is even more of a fortress than it was when she last saw it. She quickly slips back into habits learned at his feet, when she was a 19 year old undergraduate and he the professor who gave up everything to have her, looking for spooks lurking in all the shadows, suspicious headlights in the rearview mirror, and potential hidden meaning in every conversation she has. It doesn't help that her cell phone keeps ringing, despite there being no service in the mountains, sometimes broadcasting a high-pitched tone when she answers it, sometimes a phantom voicemail from her daughter. Hey, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean everybody's not out to get you, right?
And she's not wrong.
Jericho is dying, and although he's been out of the business for a very long time, he's got something, it seems, that everyone wants. Secrets, are what he has, the stock in trade of agents and spies and bad guys the world over. The secrets are in his mind, of course (the brilliant mind which may or may not have been slipping since even before Rebecca met him, she's told by his oldest friend--or betrayor?--Phil Agadakos) but surely Jericho would have some physical evidence squirreled away somewhere. Wouldn't he?
Rebecca must sift through the elusive clues that Jericho drops in their conversations, references about their past that are just slightly off and may be intended to lead her to the evidence...and may just be the product of the cancer that has metastasized to Jericho's brain. She has to figure out first what the secrets he's holding are about--matters of national security? shenanigans in the financial world he joined after he left academia?--and then find the evidence without leading the bad guys to it.
Paranoia and perfidy abound in this delicious espionage thriller. Stephen L. Carter has taken a completely different tack from his previous novels, which were elegant but slow-moving, and crafted a fast-paced, seriously violent--but still elegant--thriller. One character after another is first a friend, then a potential judas, then a friend again, then, in some cases, dead--the head spins trying to keep up with it all. And in the end all we learn is that there are bad guys and then there are bad guys, and that sometimes it's a victory when it's just the bad guys--no italics--who win.