A sweet one. McNab writes like a dream, having produced fiction (Remote Control and Crisis Four, neither reviewed) and nonfiction about Britain’s Special Air Service. He retired in 1993 as the British Army’s most highly decorated serving soldier.
Nick Stone, McNab’s stand-in, has a rich backstory by now: His nine-year-old adoptive daughter’s mental troubles cost him $4,000 weekly, and he must survive the Firm’s black view of his debacles at the White House and elsewhere. So he takes on a bloody task that at first looks easy: to set up a snatch in Helsinki and bring a visiting Russian Mafia kingpin to St. Petersburg. Should he slip up, ROC (Russian Organized Crime) will treat him to Viking’s Revenge—disembowelment, with his innards squirming on his chest for him to mull over during his half hour spent dying. The kingpin, Valentin Lebed, and other ROC members launder £20 billion yearly through London banks, and some London banking execs want Val shipped off to St. Petersburg, where he can be persuaded to make even sweeter deals with them. McNab’s wiser fans, feeling slightly above the low mental power of Nick’s Russian helpmates, will soon foresee a tangle-footed, ruinous orgy in the kidnap. Or as Nick thinks, “Basically, I accepted that I was going to die, and anything beyond that was a bonus.” As always, the snatch goes bad—very bad—and Nick winds up changing teams when offered a London payoff from Lebed, now his vastly wealthy prisoner. In London, Lebed pays him $100 trillion, then hires him to get a hacker into a Finnish house to download a “commercial” program for a payoff of an additional $3 million in a Luxembourg account. The program? Well, it’s the “Echelon dictionaries,” McNab’s Maltese Falcon.
Throat-clutching action, authentic scenarios, spectacular precision. Death zings its old sweet song as slugs sing off your Kevlar.