A rogue band of mercenaries discover more resistance than they imagined during a coordinated assault on Saddam Hussein’s treasure trove.
Though technically a prequel to Baker’s U.K. debut, Outpost (2011), this gritty, highly stylized desert adventure stands on its own as a contest of horror survival. The novel opens in Iraq, circa 2005. In an interesting turn, the mercenaries that drive the story aren’t all testosterone-fueled behemoths in the vein of The Expendables. In fact, this ragtag band of shooters is led by a woman, Lucy White, who commands a modernly diverse group of guns for hire who literally wear their trophies on their chests. Through Jabril Jamadi, an imprisoned member of Uday Hussein’s entourage, they hear rumors of a gold transport abandoned in the western desert—a target far too juicy to ignore. Seeking transport, they fall in with Jim Gaunt, a CIA contractor who’s eager to be welcomed into the fold of the Company. But Gaunt is serving two masters, taking his primary instructions from a field officer named Koell. The spooks have intel that indicates the site of the bullion, on the edge of the Syrian border, holds secrets that the Russians would kill to keep quiet. From these slender threads, Baker lights it up, pushing his prose and his characters to the limits of genre fiction. Adrenaline junkies will dig the crisply written combat sequences awash with bullet snaps and gunpowder fumes. Thriller enthusiasts will surely enjoy the mad scientist they find in the desert, safeguarding a deadly bioweapon with the potential for global disaster. Fans of The Walking Dead, which are approaching legion, can safely know that the Republican Guards waiting for them out in the desert are definitely of the undead variety. Is it all a bit lurid? Sure, but Baker’s imaginative set pieces, breathless pace and rough-and-tumble heroes give it a prepackaged for-the-movies sheen that’s hard not to enjoy.
A high-velocity zombie-thriller that's as smart, daring and propulsive as the disparate stories it’s mashing up.