The great Forsythe of 1971’s The Day of the Jackal returns (more recently, the polished tales of The Veteran, 2001), flourishing a well-researched thriller set on the world’s bloodiest stages.
Readers dazed by Forsyth’s terrific flow of detail will wonder where it’s all going as chapter after chapter floods by, diverges into a superabundant new bed of fine backgrounding that starts in WWII, passes through the blood-soaked puzzles of Vietnam, goes to the breakdown of tripartite Yugoslavia, and then to South America today. But, as Forsyth knows, when you grab a tiger by the tail, you’re in business. Even so, Avenger is far less well focused than things were with Jackal out to kill De Gaulle. At heart this story turns on Pete Dexter, now 51, a bounty hunter of the most elevated and shrouded heights, supposedly a ruggedly physical small-town Pennsylvania lawyer who keeps himself in trim for a triathlon but whose real center of operations is a small dark Manhattan apartment from which he goes out after big game whenever he answers an ad in Vintage Airplane magazine: “AVENGER. Wanted. Serious offer. No price ceiling. Please call.” Back in WWII, Steve Edmond, following his time as a Canadian fighter pilot with the RAF, becomes a billionaire mining magnate. Much later, his grandson, 20, stricken by TV images of starving and dying Bosnians, pays for his own passage for a summer with a relief agency feeding the Serbs, Croats and Bosnians—but is murdered by Serbs in the countryside. Pete Dexter, trained in Vietnam as a Tunnel Rat, tracking Viet Cong through hundreds of miles of pitch black tunnels, who later has become the Avenger and fulfilled many dark missions, is hired by Edmond to avenge his grandson by taking out the Serbian Zoran Zilic, Milosevich’s sadistic henchman, now a gang lord in South America’s Republic of San Martin.
The pages burn by, leaving a haze.