A former U.S. government agent faces off against Russian operatives who may be planning a nuclear attack in Alaska in Ceroni’s (Meridian, 2000) thriller.
Ex–FBI agent Dave McClure leaves his Colorado home for Alaska. He hopes a wintry November trek will help him through the pain of losing his wife and son in a car collision a year earlier. But withstanding the cold takes a back seat when McClure finds a body in the snow. Nearby is the murderers’ campsite, and McClure recognizes the men’s weapons and dialect as Russian. They clearly have a mission planned, one that McClure aims to stop. Meanwhile, Mossad agents Raphael Mahler and Meira Dantzig team up with the CIA in America, surmising that the Russians will try to steal a nuclear warhead. The protagonist and Alaskan locale make a winning combo. McClure, for example, isn’t just up against Russian baddies, but a blizzard and a couple of grizzlies as well. His survival skills, like using snow for drinking water, become second nature to the narrative. But the best scenes are of McClure in operative mode: he spies on the Russians to gather intel; sneaks into their campsite to steal a bit of food and sever their means of communication; and is well-prepared for inevitable confrontations against the armed men. At the same time, Raphael and Meira lead a story that feels completely separate from McClure’s, even if the plots ultimately intersect. The Mossad agents spend much of their time guessing at what the Russians and Iranians are up to. These scenes, while never boring, lack tension since readers know more than the agents do. Their subplots gain traction once they connect with McClure’s CIA pal Pete Novak, especially as a romance brews between Raphael and Meira. If nothing else, sequences involving the U.S. and Mossad agents making their ways to Alaska are reprieves from the much more exhilarating moments with McClure. He’s a character who could have carried the story all on his own with only his intuition. And maybe a few guns.
A triumph thanks to its impressive snowy setting; should be read with a space heater handy.