A debut political thriller that pits Israeli and U.S. military forces against an Iranian government on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon.
As the United States attempts to neutralize Iran’s march toward nuclear capability with economic sanctions and diplomacy, a battle-hardened Israeli government takes a more aggressive tactical approach. It deploys a devastating computer virus, assassinates key Iranian nuclear scientists, and prepares to relocate its top source of insider intelligence, Dr. Ali Bagheri Kani, the deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, to Israel by staging a fake assassination. The operation is conducted by an elite Israeli unit, the Sayeret Matkal, which answers to Gen. Tamir Pardo, the head of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad. American Col. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is recruited to join the team; he’s a decorated Special Forces soldier attached to the CIA who has a doctorate in Persian studies. After Bagheri is successfully extricated from Iran, he confirms the Israelis’ worst fears: Iran is considerably closer to a nuclear weapon than they thought. Israeli authorities decide to stage a daring attack on several Iranian nuclear facilities, and alert the United States so that its Navy can prepare for battle in the Strait of Hormuz. Meanwhile, the Iranians, who’ve prepared for years for such an eventuality, initiate a bold response, designed to exploit America’s domestic vulnerabilities. Author Carlson’s plotline is as chilling as it is gripping; his brand of cynical realism has a level of plausibility that’s both impressive and disturbing. There’s no shortage of skillfully rendered military action, and Carlson’s meticulous research into the military and political aspects of his subject matter is extraordinary. Jackson, as a character, sometimes seems overly picturesque: he’s handsome, athletically fit, endlessly brave, charming, hyper-educated—and still impossibly modest, despite it all. One of the highlights of the novel, though, is its depiction of the Iranian side, as it ably articulates their zealotry without robbing them of humanity. For example, Carlson pithily captures the moral psychology of an Iranian colonel: “He was not a killer, as such, and did not enjoy killing merely for the sake of killing. No, Rafsanjani wanted to punish America as a whole.” This is an exciting debut effort that’s certain to interest readers with a taste for contemporary political intrigue.
A briskly paced thriller that deftly imagines a nightmare scenario.