A tireless thrillermeister evokes jihad again in his relentlessly formulaic 32nd (By Dawn’s Early Light, 2003, etc.).
After a one-book hiatus, Kirk McGarvey—“the best field officer the CIA has ever known”—comes off the blocks ready to Rambo. Good thing, too, because a certain black-hearted villain, Osama bin Laden’s operations chief—known to the intelligence community by the code name of Khalil—is out for American blood. So there’s Kirk and wife Katy on board the Spirit of ’98, accompanied by former Secretary of Defense Donald Shaw and wife Karen, set to embark on a one-week pleasure cruise to Alaska. Suddenly, there’s Khalil, accompanied by a cadre of gun-toting al-Qaeda terrorists. The mission: Kidnap Shaw and haul him before a kangaroo court in Pakistan in order to try him as a war criminal. Impeccably planned, the mission proceeds without a hitch until McGarvey’s ever-dependable back hairs prickle, alerting him to danger. At this point it’s all over for Khalil, though he can hardly be blamed for not realizing it, the odds being 15 armed-to-the-teeth thugs against a single unarmed McGarvey. Most of his henchmen en route to Paradise, Khalil slinks off prophesying balefully: “We will meet again and I will kill you.” Though this fails to strike terror into McGarvey’s stout heart—he is, after all, the stuff of superheroes—he believes Khalil means business. But exactly who is this Islamic monster? McGarvey does have an inkling. In order to pursue it, however, he deems it necessary to resign from the CIA and go on the hunt in the guise of an ordinary, albeit lethal, citizen. The game’s afoot—McGarvey vs. Khalil, the good killing machine against the bad one.
Flat and stale but, given the tested loyalty of the Hagberg fan base, probably a hit.