A neatly constructed debut, with all the black op trimmings—and a neurotic amount of brand-naming—by Whitcomb (Cold Zero, 2001), who’s been in the belly of this beast as a member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team.
“A little-known Saudi fundamentalist cell to attack or disrupt the Federal Reserve” fuels the tale. But the Saudis are only accessories to the manipulations of Jordan Mitchell, the big kahuna of an international telecommunications company that appears to be selling the US government down the global-terrorist tube. Whitcomb keeps readers off balance, though, detailing with comfortable ease the activities of the secret FBI company that’s intended to neutralize national security threats. There’s a certain cool, a believe-this quality, to the godawful proceedings, as if you may not wish to know about “the world out there you aren’t supposed to see.” The cold fact is that there’s a lot of nasty by-product killing—of children, for instance—in this war against fundamentalists, and the operatives often don’t know what’s being thrown at them. Whitcomb’s charged narrative has lots of sharp imagery (“The spinning rotors ignited flint in the soil, creating a bizarre nimbus of red, yellow, and orange hues,”) but also a surfeit of Simon Pearce glass, Kaj Gottlob library tables, John Lobb shoes, Charvet oxfords, and Catherine Malandrino blouses. There’s also a measure of rote junk (“How will something so small help our fighters carry the jihad?” mewls a fundamentalist) but also plenty of good babble, like “direct-feed imagery intercepted from a National Reconnaissance Office KH-11 spy satellite as it relayed encrypted intelligence through one of the Borders Atlantic’s geosynchronous communications birds.”
A thriller debut that’s driven by veracity—too much of it at times: Savile Row! Ferragamo! Hugo Boss!—tethered to a fraught reality that may well be happening right now.