First-time novelist LaPenta’s story of a former Vietnam sniper who, years after a vengeance-fueled killing spree, is enlisted in a secret agency for covert missions.
Life after Vietnam is hard for this nameless Army sniper, who can’t find a job to support his family. But it seems all hope is lost when he returns home to find his wife dead from asthma complications. He blames others for his loss, targets company heads and launches a mass attack at a parade. Decades later, he comes out of hiding and is coaxed into working for Alpha, a clandestine organization that may offer redemption. The author’s novel is best described as two separate stories. The first, set in the ’70s, has nameless characters—he’s merely the sniper, and his wife is only identified by the pet name of Princess. This approach functions well narratively, illustrating the sniper’s complaint that society strips people of their individuality. The book’s second part, in 2011, is much different in style and tone: much more dialogue, shorter chapters and a decidedly lighter feel, mostly from a team that doesn’t shy away from snide remarks regarding mission or training details. It’s difficult accepting that the same man who murdered innocent people at the parade, including children, is now the hero. LaPenta, however, does show that the sniper feels remorse and accepts his role in Alpha as some type of salvation. The sniper and the Shadow Team, armed with “invincibility suits” and implanted chips that allow them to communicate telepathically with one another and an artificial intelligence, endure an adrenaline-charged mission that, while over too quickly, does end on a high note by implying a potential continuation. Some of the novel shifts perspective for the sniper, from third to first person and back. It’s an effective approach, as if the remarried man is trying to pull away from the war veteran. The perception changes stop after his wife’s murder, but altering tenses occur throughout the book, and these are less successful. Past and present tenses rotate in seemingly random moments, which can be disorienting, particularly during scenes that the sniper isn’t witnessing. Additionally, the novel would have benefitted from more cohesion and a tighter structure.
An ample supply of scorching plot developments and edginess.