Army Reservists patrol a border zone between Israel and the new Palestinian state: another slow starting, torpidly written, but shatteringly suspenseful tale of near-future military engagement.
With 13 books behind him, most of them character-driven examinations of speculative military conflicts, Coyle isn’t about to change his ways. His prose is among the most leaden in the military thriller genre. His clunky stretches of dialogue bog down in digressive exposition and tedious correctness (like the proper use of “roger, wilco, over and out”), and his plots tend to feature conflict between a hot-headed, fatuously self-assured West Point officer and a plodding, uncertain grunt, both of whom learn—in a series of wonderfully suspenseful, sharply detailed, blink-and-you-missed-it battle scenes—that surviving combat involves far more than pointing your weapon and pulling the trigger. Though his current story is set in Israel along a demilitarized zone, it continues the theme Coyle developed in More Than Courage (2003): the challenge, horror, and awesome cost that are entailed in policing the Middle East. As for Coyle’s strengths, they’ve never shown better than here as he defines the uniquely earnest, conflicted, small-town characters of this band of Virginia Reservists who leave family and friends to become objects of hatred and contempt from both sides of the border. Before they can get totally accustomed to their lose-lose situation, they discover a terrorist plot involving biological weapons, then launch a desperate, and technically illegal, counterstrike into Palestinian territory.
As always, the build-up is long and problematic, but the battle scenes save the day.