In this novel, mercenaries seize an American senator in the Colombian jungle—and his wounded bodyguard may be his only hope for survival.
Case McIntire has an unenviable job: providing personal security for Sen. Eugene Braithwaite as he traipses recklessly through a swath of Colombian jungle controlled by heavily armed FARC revolutionaries. Braithwaite’s convoy is attacked by a group of mercenaries led by Humberto Salazar Carillo, also known as El Presidente, a death-obsessed assassin who reads Plato and Descartes when he’s not killing people for money. Braithwaite is kidnapped and whisked away from a scene littered with dead security guards, but Case miraculously survives, though he’s badly wounded. He improvises a weapon out of the detritus of mangled steel left behind by the marauders, and sets out to find Braithwaite should he remain alive. Little does Case know that the senator’s kidnapping is a carefully orchestrated ruse—his closest adviser, the nihilistically amoral Neville Horvath, arranged it all in a bid to position Braithwaite for a presidential run. Horvath convinced the Escurela de Lanceros, something akin to a Special Forces unit, to participate in the abduction, which means the Colombian government is complicit, elevating the situation to the level of a catastrophic international incident. Meanwhile, the jungle reminds Case of his service during the Vietnam War and his mistaken execution of an innocent man, a recollection that torments him in his dreams. O’Keefe’s (Dixon’s Edge, 2015) plot is skillfully designed to deliver action and thrills, and there is never a lull in the story’s frenzied pace. But that fevered pitch is eventually so relentless, it becomes the authorial equivalent of shrill, overwrought, and hyperbolic. In addition, Horvath’s kidnapping scheme is insanely implausible. As for the prose, it inhabits a peculiar space between melodramatically over the top and bloodlessly anodyne. When Case steps on a shard of glass, he mumbles: “Jesus! Thank you, God! I really needed that! Damn!” In fact, it’s astonishing how often exclamations like “Damn!” and “Uh-oh!” occur. As a result, even the surfeit of action doesn’t compensate for the novel’s featureless writing.
A briskly paced but wildly unrealistic political tale.