If you’re Jack Ryan Jr., the U.S. president’s son, you shouldn’t waive Secret Service protection, especially if your job at Hendley Associates, a private CIA clone known as "The Campus," makes for double threat exposure.
Jack’s on forced sabbatical from Hendley, having overstepped his brief. With the downtime, his tradecraft’s sloppy, and he nearly succumbs to a knife attack in a supermarket parking lot. Jack later discerns the attack was an assassination attempt, not a mugging. A Hendley investigation into a corporate money laundering case put the bullseye on his back. The assassins have been dispatched by Rostock Security Group. RSG’s namesake chief wants to collect a blood debt from Islamic terrorists. He intends a private covert war to be financed by murder, kidnapping, and extortion. Sending Jack in pursuit of bad guys from Virginia to New England to Munich and Namibia, Blackwood’s (Tom Clancy Under Fire, 2015, etc.) newest contribution to Clancy’s oeuvre turns into 500 pages of firefight. There’s bromance here, with Jack being assisted by the nicely sketched Effrem Likkel, son of European "journalist royalty.” A newbie searching for a headline, Likkel’s fecklessness mirrors Jack’s impetuousness. Blackwood’s pacing is intense, action-oriented, and mostly bereft of Clancy’s paeans to weapons, though technogeeks will get brief appreciations of the assassin’s friends: frangible .22 caliber Glaser Safety Slugs and the Eickhorn Solingen Secutor combat knife. Jack isn’t afraid to pull his Glock, but his major weapon is a smartphone, employed for everything from Yelp to Google to GPS tracking. Rapid action makes the settings a blur, but intrigue, clear snapshots of peripheral bit players, and snappy dialogue pass the readability and believability tests. Clancy regulars Clark and Cruz remain desk-bound at the Campus, but young Jack finds a balance between his tendency toward lone cowboy recklessness and "spiraling into paralysis by analysis" to thwart the RSG scheme.
Action-adventure addicts will get their fixes.