In Ortega’s debut thriller, a U.S. Navy SEAL commander finds his personal life shattered by a kidnapping.
Ryan Williams is fiercely devoted to his fellow SEALs. As this novel opens, he throws himself on a grenade to save them during a firefight with terrorists who previously made an attempt on the life of the president of the United States. The grenade never goes off, but those seconds awaiting death haunt him long after he returns home. But as he considers retirement in order to devote himself more fully to his family, his children are kidnapped by members of a South American drug cartel. He realizes that he’ll need to use his considerable military skills to mount a rescue. Indeed, Williams is nearly superhuman in his talents and virtues: An expert marksman, he earned a black belt in karate at 14 and holds a fifth-degree black belt in the traditional Japanese art of ninjutsu. He also seems completely devoid of vices. These traits may make it hard for readers to develop very much empathy with him. Although over-the-top heroes aren’t unusual in thrillers, this book’s first-person narration amplifies the problem, as Williams often mentions how wonderful he is. Early on, the prose is sometimes unpolished: “We had advised the president that we didn’t think it was wise and that it was a very unsafe idea.” However, once the real action begins, these problems melt away. The prose becomes crisp with excitement, the pace quickens, and Williams finally becomes human, now that he’s facing a personal dilemma beyond anything he’s encountered in war. What’s more, Ortega infuses the action scenes with realism and adds a dark element to the final outcome that elevates it beyond the action genre.
A worthwhile thriller, primarily for fans of military action.