Resonant characters propel this consistently gripping terrorist tale.

SERPENTS UNDERFOOT

In this debut thriller, a Navy SEAL tries to uncover a terrorist plot.

Rahman Atta has a deep-seated animosity toward Americans, blaming them for murdering his father and uncle, both Islamic radicals. He’s cooking up a plan that initially entails getting a president in his pocket. With a United States election coming up, Atta offers to fund Josephine Warren-Brookstone’s campaign. The presidential hopeful has been doing well but is almost out of money and accepts Atta’s contributions. The candidate does not know her benefactor’s true identity. The alarming second part of Atta’s plan involves deadly weapons. When the CIA finds a possible link between Warren-Brookstone and terrorists, Atta sends assassin Fatima Hadhari to kill a few agents. But one of those potential targets is analyst William Peterson, whose childhood friend is martial arts–trained Navy SEAL JD Cordell. The SEAL’s involvement ultimately puts him and his parents, Curtis and Mai, in danger. Will JD discover the details of Atta’s scheme before it’s too late? Gilbert’s action-oriented tale is dense with characters and personal histories, resulting in narrative stretches without the formidable JD. But the myriad subplots and backstories are often enthralling. The book’s opening chapters take place during the Vietnam War and feature JD’s parents. In Vietnam, Mai aids a lost and injured American soldier, Lt. Curtis Cordell, and subsequently guides him to a military outpost. All of the story’s characters are well developed, producing genuine shocks when certain individuals die. The author writes in an unadorned prose that keeps the plot moving at a steady beat. There’s quite a bit of violence, and despite the tale not lingering on bloodier moments, a few stand out in their sheer ferocity. Although readers will likely anticipate an ending action scene—featuring a confrontation between two key players—the finale is still exhilarating.

Resonant characters propel this consistently gripping terrorist tale. (acknowledgements, author’s note, author bio)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-96131-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

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Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

TOM CLANCY TARGET ACQUIRED

Bentley keeps Jack Ryan Jr.’s life exciting in this latest grand-scale Tom Clancy adventure.

Ryan is in Tel Aviv on an “asset-validation exercise” for a private company referred to as The Campus, and he takes time to hang out at the beach. There, he sees a woman with a child who he can tell is autistic, and he saves her from a knife-wielding attacker. She’s flummoxed; who’d want to hurt her? When mother and son leave, Ryan wants to return the boy’s dropped Captain America toy. “What could go wrong with that?” he muses naïvely. Only three hell-raising threats in one day. Almost immediately he meets agents from Israeli security, Shin Bet. Who is he? What’s he doing there? But though he doesn’t lie about his name, no one ever exclaims, “Wow, you have the same name as the U.S. president. Any connection?” Anyway, Chinese State Security is also interested in the woman, and Jack doesn’t know why. And then mother and son are kidnapped. True to the Clancy style, what begins as the attempted return of a toy mushrooms into a threat of global conflict—“no good deed goes unpunished” is an apt cliché. Other enemies include Iran's Quds Force, an apocalyptic cult—and some smart jihadis, because “the dumb jihadis died a long time ago.” Ryan is a fierce warrior when the need arises, and he refuses a direct order to return to the U.S.: “Sorry, sir…no can do. I’ve got two innocents still at risk—a mother and child.” So even when the bad guys try to crucify him, “nobody did cornered junkyard dog better than Jack.” Meanwhile, an airborne threat may destroy Tel Aviv. The story has some nice wordplay, with helicopters “clawing for altitude like homesick angels,” and the F-35 being “part ballerina, part racehorse, and all killer.” While on the ground “blood flowed and bones broke,” and a female fighter jock has the final say.

Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18813-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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More of a curiosity for political junkies than a satisfying story of international intrigue.

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WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS

A progressive superstar pens her first political thriller.

Anyone who follows the news knows Abrams as a politician and voting rights activist. She's less well known as a novelist. Using the pseudonym Selena Montgomery, Abrams has published several works of romantic suspense. Her new novel begins when Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn falls into a coma. His clerk Avery Keene is shocked to discover that her boss has made her his legal guardian and granted her power of attorney. The fate of one of the most powerful men in the world is in her hands—and her life is in danger. Abrams gives us nefarious doings in the world of biotech, a president with autocratic tendencies and questionable ethics, and a young woman struggling to unravel a conspiracy while staying one step ahead of the people who want her out of the way. Unfortunately, the author doesn't weave these intriguing elements into an enjoyable whole. Abrams makes some odd word choices, such as this: “The intricate knot she had twisted into her hair that morning bobbed cunningly as she neared her office.” The adverb cunningly is mystifying, and Abrams uses it in a similar way later on. There are disorienting shifts in point of view. And Abrams lavishes a great deal of attention on details that simply don’t matter, which makes the pace painfully slow. This is a fatal flaw in a suspense novel, but it may not be the most frustrating aspect of this book. For a protagonist who has gotten where she is by being smart, Avery makes some stunningly poor decisions. For example, the fact that she has a photographic memory is an important plot point and is clearly a factor in Justice Wynn’s decision to enlist her help. When she finds a piece of paper upon which is printed a long string of characters and the words "BURN UPON REVIEW," Avery memorizes the lines of numbers and letters—and then, even though she knows she’s being surveilled, she snaps a shot of the paper with her phone, thereby making the whole business of setting it on fire quite pointless.

More of a curiosity for political junkies than a satisfying story of international intrigue.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54657-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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