Thursday, January 29, 2015

Next Level Terrorism

The Third Target – Joel C. Rosenberg – (Tyndale House Publishing)

Joel Rosenberg burst on to the fiction scene over a dozen years ago with his book The Last Jihad which combined a startling mix of ripped from today’s headlines with a dash of Nostradamus-like prognostication on the future direction of terrorism in a post-9/11 world.

Since that point Rosenberg has displayed an almost uncanny ability to hang out on the cutting edge of fact-based, real world, fictional tales. When you ponder the average timeline from final edits to the bookshelf, Rosenberg’s latest, The Third Target and its ISIL (or ISIS if you prefer) based storyline, once again proves he has his finger squarely on the pulse of Middle East tensions.

Rosenberg ratchets up the tension when he posits the terror inducing thought that ISIL terrorists in Syria have stumbled upon a cache of chemical weapons and are planning to put them to use; the targets are obvious, the question that remains is where and when.

Fictional, New York Times correspondent J B Collins gets wind of the chemical coup and gets flung headlong into the story as he tries to track down the details from disparate sources and even from the terrorists themselves. Rosenberg’s hallmarks are all in place with solid pacing, plenty of twists and turns and believable characters all around.

No Fortunate Son – A Pike Logan Thriller - Brad Taylor – (Dutton Books)

John Fogerty and Credence Clearwater Revival dropped the term “fortunate son” into the popular lexicon with the anti-war anthem of the same name in 1969; which featured Fogerty growling the line “I ain’t no Senator’s son.” Despite the double negative, the implication is that the offspring of the elites were not the one tapped to serve in the military.

It is those offspring that are the centerpiece of Brad Taylor’s new Pike Logan thriller; No Fortunate Son. The children and relatives of high ranking administration and elected officials are suddenly coming up missing; disappearing from their jobs and taskings at U.S. military outposts at far flung places around the world.

The race and the hunt is on to not only discover who is behind the kidnappings, but also to save lives. False flag fingers are pointed in the direction of Middle Eastern terror types, but are they really behind the plot to bring the U.S. government to its proverbial knees?

This plotline throws Logan and the Task Force team into uncharted waters as they move from hunting down bad guys to take out and move into the world of police investigation and what it takes to hunt down a different kind of bad guy. Taylor’s background as a special forces operator is diametrically opposite of this kind of work, but he handles it all with his usual aplomb and dispatches yet another winning entry in this series.

Rain On The Dead – Jack Higgins (Putnam Books)

Jack Higgins remains a true master when it comes to delivering an international thriller. His latest outing Rain on the Dead, features a cast familiar characters; spies and assorted ruffians, converts to the cause of good triumphing over evil.

It is those usual suspects and the predictable nature of their always in the right place at the right time to deliver forceful action with often stunning speed and agility that may be the downfall of this book. While I am certainly not  prudish about the use of violence in a storyline, the simple fact that many of Higgins characters could easily qualify for government funded retirement benefits that make the speed and accuracy that the force is delivered with a bit hard to believe at times.

The old master may have visited the well of reformed IRA shooter Sean Dillon and friend one too many times. While still an entertaining yarn, you’ve got to wonder how much this gang has left in the tank.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Trio of Thrills

The Skeleton Road – Val McDermid (Atlantic Monthly Press)

Ever the masterful plotter, international, bestselling crime writer Val McDermid breaks from her regular series for a stand alone; or what shows signs of being a new series, The Skeleton Road to stitch together a cold case that shows signs of ties to Balkan war crimes.

In the heart of historic Edinburgh builders are preparing to demo a disintegrating gothic building when skeletal remains are discovered on the site. McDermid conjures up the perfect skitter-ish tone of the height fearing demolition man out on the roof tiles when he makes the grisly find.

Cold case detective Karen Pirie must pull a wide range of seemingly disparate threads; mixing politics, psychological and criminal pieces of the overall puzzle as she becomes embroiled in an international vendetta.

McDermid fans may bear some disappointment at the departure from her regular characters/series, but she manages to deliver a perfectly balanced story line that mixes some pretty heavy subject matter.

Done In One – Grant Jerkins and Jan Thomas (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press)

In the classic soul song, the Persuaders croon about the “thin line between love and hate” and in the new novel Done In One, authors Grant Jerkins and Jan Thomas posit a question about the potential for a similar thin line between good and evil.

Could the psychological impact of the high pressure operations as a SWAT sniper, where one bullet equals one kill; could a police sniper slip over to the dark side and become a killer? A series of shootings that have left northern California firmly in the grip of fear and the main suspect is SWAT sniper on permanent psych leave, Lee Staley’s only firm grip is on a bottle.

Not sure how this writing duo came together, but clearly Thomas has honed some insights into the of police snipers from her husband a retired police sniper. The book offers a compelling, well crafted story, that offers a peek under the tent and into the world of the law enforcement sniper.  

Retribution – A Kirk McGarvey Novel – David Hagberg (Forge Books)

Abbottabod, Pakistan, a private, walled compound sits a short distance from the headquarters of the Inter-Services Agency (ISI) the nation’s intelligence agency. Behind the walls of that compound sits a three level main house, a guest house and a covered garden area; the home’s resident is the most hunted, and arguably hated, man in the world Osama bin Laden. May 1, 2011; 24 members of the elite U.S. Navy Seals launch a mission dubbed Neptune’s Spear to deliver final justice to bin Laden.

When the smoke clears, the ISI is left with at best egg on its collective face for allowing the most wanted man to live right under its nose and at worst is guilty of conspiring to protect bin Laden from discovery. Whatever the case may be; it is enough to drive some within the security service to seek revenge for the unannounced incursion into their sovereign nation.

It is that revenge that is the basis for the latest Kirk McGarvey novel, Retribution by prolific thriller writer David Hagberg. A team of former German special forces soldiers have been embarked on a new career as assassins for hire and their newest target are the Seal Team Six members who took out bin Laden.

Former CIA chief Kirk McGarvey and his team get wind of the plot and race is on; who can get the job done first the killers or the hunters. Hagberg does his usual masterful job of keeping the action on pace and on target. The former Air Force cryptographer brings an insider knowledge and eye to the page and delivers an authentic feel to the story.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mr. Fixit

Fear City – Repairman Jack: The Early Years – F. Paul Wilson (TOR)

It’s the dead of winter 1993 and we are dragged back into history courtesy of author F. Paul Wilson’s fixer extraordinaire, Repairman Jack as he unknowingly finds himself mixed up with a band of malcontented Islamists who are hell bent on wrecking destruction on the United States.

Fear City drops Jack right into the heart of the 1993 plot to blow up the World Trade Center. A mysterious shadow organization tries to steer the terrorists away from the Trade Center and aim them in the direction of the United Nations. Wilson does a masterful job of mixing unrelated circumstances; the brutal murder of Jack’s former girlfriend, who earns a living as a high priced call girl, with the real characters involved with the Trade Center plot.

Jack and friends cross paths with dirt bag Islamist terrorists like  Ramzi Yousef, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammad Salameh, and Yousef’s Uncle, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed who would play mastermind to the 9/11 attacks. Wilson also mixes in CIA Langley shooter Mir Aimal Kasi who gunned down CIA employees just weeks prior to the WTC bombings.

Wilson does his usual masterful job of balancing multiple storylines which pick up speed as the inevitably crash together at breakneck speed to a powerful conclusion.


Modern Day Robin Hood

The Thief – A Robin Monarch Novel – Mark Sullivan (Macmillan Audiobooks)

Robin Monarch is a modern day Robin Hood with a twist. Monarch is a take no prisoners thief with special training courtesy of U.S. Special Forces and the CIA. His targets are not merely the rich, but the filthy rich who made their fortunes through nefarious means.

Those who struggle to release a firm grip on reality, may have a difficult time with Monarch’s almost super human ability to adapt and overcome the forces arrayed against him, but it makes for a fast paced thriller when you decide to simply let go. Monarch finds himself up against some downright evils folks as one of his “victims” proves to be less than happy about having $20 million stolen from his stash.

“Big” Beau Arsenault displays a full on mean streak when it comes to his money and strikes back by kidnapping the beneficiary on Monarch’s criminal endeavors, Sister Rachel, a missionary doctor who saved Monarch from the slums and gangs years before.

Jeff Gurner, who did a solid job with the recent Equalizer audiobook (which was way better than the awful Denzel Washington movie) narrates this tail through far flung places and exotic locales and breathes life in the characters created by author Mark Sullivan.

Sullivan, who has penned a number of other Monarch thrillers, has recently become a member of the James Patterson cadre of co-authors, helping the book churning machine to write the Private series.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Number One With a Bullet

Modern American Snipers – From the Legend to the Reaper – On the Battlefield with Special Operations Snipers – Chris Martin – (St. Martin’s Press)

For whatever reason, there is a fascination on the part of the general public about snipers. I am not sure if it is the deadly skill set that they bring to bear or the loner quality that is often part and parcel of how snipers are portrayed in countless books; both fact and fictional accounts and the multitude of onscreen portrayals of these often larger than life characters.

From Chris Kyle’s American Sniper to Carlos Hathcock in Marine Sniper and even Stephen Hunter’s fictional sniper Bob Lee Swagger, there is something that inherently draws us to these men. The patience, the skill, puffed up swagger that is part of these guys character, that lead to amazing stories.

In Modern American Snipers – From the Legend to the Reaper – On the Battlefield with Special Operations Snipers, author Chris Martin explores not only the men, but also the evolving role of the modern, American, special forces snipers. The sniper’s job description has changed almost has dramatically as the tools that they use to complete their assignments.

Martin draws a clear picture of not only how the role of the sniper as changed, but also the in the field situations that are at the root that evolution. It is a core standard for snipers to always seek the higher ground and the upper hand on the battlefield and the training and tactics that snipers use in the ongoing war of terror has allowed them to have a major impact on not only changing the elements of battle but of the situational priorities that lead to lives saved.

A master sniper is worth his weight in gold not only for the fear they can strike in the hearts of their enemies, but also the confidence they engender in their team when they provide overwatch and draw down on the bad guys. While Martin captures the colorful characters that populate the special forces sniper community he also details the in the moment tactics that these guys bring to the fight.