In Maj. Brad Stout’s return, he must foil a radiological threat against the president mere hours before his wedding.
Part of Brad’s job at Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute is monitoring eBay for anyone selling radioactive material. The Army major believes he’s uncovered an online sale written in code that offers a potentially lethal item related to a 1961 nuclear incident in Idaho. There’s also an allusion in the code to the president’s upcoming visit to Camp David. Brad desperately attempts to warn the president about the scheme, and he’s also in serious danger of missing his wedding to his pregnant fiancee, Mary Lou. Though short, the second book in Salter’s (The eBay Plot, 2012) series packs a mean punch. In addition to the nuclear threat and pending nuptials, Brad is attacked by dirty-bomb terrorists—he’d thwarted their plans in his last adventure—seeking a World War II–era diary they believe he possesses. Brad also travels to Germany when a loved one is kidnapped, and he meets his odd, insular Cajun future in-laws. The novel can sometimes read like Salter was trying to squeeze in as many genres as he could: action, espionage, drama, a detective story, comedy with Mary Lou’s Ma and her nearly incomprehensible Cajun dialect, and even romance, as Brad and Mary Lou’s intimacy is in ample supply. Fortunately, though, the story isn’t convoluted, and there’s always some elbow room in the narrative. The best scenes deal with the bonding between Brad and his father-to-be: Brad calls him Dad and contrasts him with his own father, a cold, violent man. The two men work together in tracking down the highest bidder for the dubious eBay auction. But at the core of the story are Brad’s fear and excitement about his future marriage and impending fatherhood. For instance, despite having just survived an attack, he’s worried he’ll incur his fiancee’s Cajun wrath if he’s late picking up her father from the airport. Tellingly, the countdown, which begins about halfway through the novel, counts down not to the threat against the president but to the wedding day.
A broad, satisfying thriller that’s as invigorating as it is charming.