An Air Force pilot with a few skills not in his official dossier finds himself on the run in a hostile nation in the first thriller of this trilogy.
It’s 1986, and Maj. Jacob “Falcon” Kelly is at the top of his game. A capable fighter jock, Kelly gets recruited into a top-secret program that requires more than just flight abilities. These proficiencies, as well as the fluency in Russian he kept secret from the Air Force to avoid intelligence postings, come in handy when he is shot down over the Bering Strait and whisked off to a debriefing center deep inside the Soviet Union for interrogation and eventual liquidation. He befriends a fellow Russian-speaking prisoner named Oswald Simmons (“everyone just calls me Oz”), a scientist, and they use Morse code to secretly communicate. Before long, Kelly spots an opportunity to flee. He tells Oz about his escape plan: “Gonna check out and find a different hotel. Don’t care for the amenities here.” Oz eagerly offers the dubious Kelly his assistance (“Need some help with your luggage? Take me with you! I can be handy in a scrap”). Soon all of Kelly’s talents and knowledge that the Soviets didn’t know about get used against them, as the body count spirals upward and he comes ever closer to achieving his goal. Cobb (Falcon Strike, 2014, etc.) has clearly done his research on multiple counts and, like Tom Clancy or Dale Brown, masterly intertwines military technology and behavior into a tightly plotted narrative in which every development follows logically and smoothly from what came before. This deft touch extends to the characters: Kelly, while remaining supremely adept, makes mistakes and gets frustrated in his efforts to run, making him more relatable than a stereotypical Special Forces operative. And the primary antagonists, such as Maj. Gen. Chernikov, are not cartoonishly evil monsters but professional military figures with doubts and misgivings of their own. Occasionally, Cobb slips in a little heavy-handed religious material, but except for one instance where a professor’s conversion story told to Kelly edges into proselytizing, the author manages to keep most of the Christian-themed material relevant to the story and characters.
This first installment chronicling the adventures of Maj. Jacob Kelly turns out to be an undisputed success.