In the latest installment of Lukeman’s (The Ajax Protocol, 2014, etc.) action series, a U.S. Black Ops group tries to stop terrorist attacks from inciting a war between India and Pakistan.
When someone bombs the Indian Embassy in the Philippines, Elizabeth Harker, director of covert government unit the Project, sends her team to Manila. Once there, a raid on the American Embassy by Philippine terrorist faction Abu Sayyaf puts one team member in the ICU. The terrorists seem to be working with Pakistan-based Islamic State of Kashmir, but intercepted calls suggest that a secret organization is manipulating information to provoke an India-Pakistan conflict. The Project heads to India to shut down the nefarious enterprise by thwarting a missile launch and to seek vengeance for the group’s wounded operative. Lukeman’s action-packed novel keeps the plot moving and the tension high. The American Embassy assault is a lengthy, multi-chapter sequence that also puts in peril Project member Selena Connor, who’s there to see the U.S. ambassador. The four-member team is exceptionally skilled yet vulnerable; Nick Carter questions his response time—and which terrorist he should have taken out first—after someone is seriously injured. Personal touches for the Project are largely effective, including Nick and Selena’s endless marriage talks and Lamont Cameron’s (possibly ominous) decision to “hang it up” soon. A notable villain, meanwhile, is surprisingly sympathetic: Indian spy Ashok Rao is both dying from inoperable cancer and out for retribution against ISOK jihadist Abdul Afridi, who killed Rao’s wife and son. On occasion, the Project is oddly restricted, as when the president orders an interrogation-only strategy against a deadly target; elsewhere, the team is forced to work with a CIA asset. And one can’t help but wonder whether Project hacker Stephanie Willits, who accrues nearly all of the plot’s significant intel and tracks people through a series of phone calls, could have handled the mission by herself without ever leaving her desk. Nevertheless, the blistering gunfights only stop for a change in location, while at least some baddies still standing at the end leave the door open for the next book.
Boldly embraces its genre and revels in its Hollywood-movie action scenes.