A tense thriller that relies equally on bravery, wit and 21st-century American firepower.
A group of U.S. workers for WorldCares/ChildrenFirst are in Kenya to help Somali refugees. One day, they are kidnapped and held for ransom. The victims’ families hire John Wells, an ex-CIA agent who converted to Islam in a previous novel. Wells is smart, tough and honorable, but none of that stops him from being one hell of a killer. In his first foray into Africa, he coordinates his efforts with the CIA, though not all his government contacts like or trust him. Meanwhile, the frightened hostages must endure rough treatment by captors who have problems of their own. Berenson’s thorough research gives the reader vivid images of Somalia, a hostile, ungovernable land where outlaws and hyenas are near the top of the food chain. In one tense scene, a deadly 6-foot-long mamba slithers over Wells. But the drones terrify and fascinate even more, controlled from air-conditioned comfort back in the United States. What can the operator see and do to a distant enemy before returning to his comfortable home? The worst part is that the technology is believable and probably accurate. The novel also prompts but does not pose the question: How many is it acceptable to kill in order to save how few? A cynic might add “how many Africans” and “how few Americans,” although the novel has no racial slant. The enemy might be anyone, anywhere in the world, caught in the sights of an airborne Reaper. Setting aside the troubling trends in warfare, though, Berenson gives readers top-notch, fast-paced excitement in a part of the world unfamiliar to many Americans.
John Wells (The Faithful Spy, 2006, etc.) is a worthy hero readers can count on.