To many Linda Howard fans, the mysterious and compelling John Medina almost stole Kill and Tell from Karen Whitlaw and Marc Chastain. Appearing in just a few scenes, the elusive CIA operative left most readers captivated and panting for his own story. A friend recently told me that she’d have to think very hard to recall the story line of Kill and Tell, her lasting memory of that book is, “When do I get John Medina’s story?”
All the Queen’s Men features John Medina but it really isn’t his story. Readers hoping to find out what makes John Medina tick may still be wondering after they finish the book.
Five years have passed since Niema Burdock, a communications expert for the CIA, lost her husband, Dallas, on a mission in Iran that went tragically wrong. Newlyweds and deeply in love, Niema and Dallas had only a few months together before undertaking the dangerous assignment headed by the man Niema knew only as Tucker.
Now working at a predictable and unchallenging desk job, convinced that her love of danger and risk taking died with Dallas, Niema is shocked when Tucker appears in her life again. She is even more stunned to learn he is actually the legendary John Medina, one of the CIA’s most dangerous agents.
From a distance, John has followed Niema’s life over the past five years. He has never forgotten her commitment to the Agency and her courage when her husband died, but he has remained in the background, sort of a guardian angel to Niema -- always interested in her, but respecting her grieving.
Now John needs Niema for a complicated assignment to catch a dangerous arms dealer supplying deadly explosives to terrorists. The mission will involve risky undercover work in the high power, glamorous setting of embassies and mansions. But the biggest danger of all to Niema may be the close contact with John Medina himself.
Niema is a wonderfully well-written character. She is strong, intelligent and born with a need for adventure and challenge that she has stifled for years because of the sense of guilt she feels at Dallas’ death. Witty dialogue and Niema’s growing awareness of John make her character slowly come alive. Readers will feel Niema’s attraction to John Medina. If there is one thing Linda Howard does extremely well, it’s sexual tension
John Medina comes alive in a very different way that may not appeal to all readers. At the end of All the Queen’s Men, his background is still very murky, but the gradual layering of his personality is very interesting to watch. The enigmatic Medina displays a sly sense of humor and a deep commitment to Niema that is evidenced from early in the book.
The plot, while nothing out of the ordinary, moves at a fast pace and introduces some very interesting secondary characters. (But, please Ms. Howard, don’t make the arms dealer into a hero in your next book!) The romantic tension between John and Niema develops late in the book into some classic (and perhaps one controversial?) Linda Howard love scenes.
All the Queen’s Men did leave me a bit bemused at the rather terse ending. But eternal optimist that I am, I like to think those loose ends were purposely left open and perhaps we’ll see more of John and Niema. Their passion for each other and love for excitement and danger could make for an exciting sequel. I can’t see these two settling down in suburbia with two cats and a mini-van.