Former Mossad agents reunite to track down the culprits responsible for bombing a Syrian hospital in this political thriller.
Lt. Jesse Plotnick is the drone pilot for a U.S. operation, with the target somewhere in Aleppo. Helming the controls in Nevada, Jesse witnesses his screen inexplicably go black. Lt. Col. Bill Johnson quickly aborts the mission and orders the drone destroyed. But it’s too late: The drone fires a Hellfire missile at an Aleppo hospital. Eyewitness accounts and salvaged pieces of the drone point the blame at the U.S. for the resultant deaths, which is all part of someone’s plan to discredit America. Jesse, meanwhile, is the Pentagon’s scapegoat. Fortunately, he has help from his Washington, D.C., lawyer father, Mark, a former Mossad agent with Israeli and U.S. dual citizenship. One of Mark’s clients is Coryell Electronics, the drone manufacturer, which sets out to prove that a hacker may have been behind its product’s alleged malfunction. Mark teams up with Saul Shalach, a colleague from his Mossad days, to clear Jesse’s name by finding the hospital bomber. Enigmatic assassin Janbiya may want the same thing. After his recent mission (killing a terrorist linked to the bombing), his goal of quitting his lethal job is foiled by some loved ones’ deaths via a deliberate explosion. Janbiya believes whoever hired him had plotted his demise but missed, giving him the same target as Mark. Getting answers will require violence, intimidation, and a bit of political savvy, which Mark’s Pentagon cohort Secretary of Defense Amanda Courtright has in spades.
Doucette’s (Stealing Fire, 2016, etc.) novel is populated by characters with intricate backstories. Janbiya’s identity, for example, is ultimately revealed; he has ties to two brothers who, after the devastating loss of their parents, seek vengeance against Iraqi military officials and politicians. There’s a connection between the assassin and Mark as well. Despite the dense histories, the tale establishes a brisk momentum with relatively brief details and succinct chapters. Shorter descriptions, however, don’t shortchange the narrative. It’s abundantly clear, for one, that Shorty Coryell is exasperated by Mark’s not immediately comprehending drone frequencies when the author offers this concise line: “Shorty exhaled and looked at Mark.” But female characters are less significant than the males; the wives of both Mark and Janbiya are mostly representative of the men’s choice to leave potential dangers behind and be with family. Amanda is an outstanding exception. She practically takes over the lead in the final act, as pinpointing the villains involves political zigzagging with other countries, including Russia and China. It’s perhaps not surprising that physical confrontations are an eventual necessity, but the tale is never remotely bloody or explicit. At the crux of the book are the weapons and those wielding them. The assassin for hire and Jesse are essentially those weapons, at the mercy of the people trying to control them. This seemingly endless struggle—Mark, Amanda, and others contending with bad guys draped in anonymity—makes for an entertaining story bubbling with exhilaration and intensity.
A bracing terrorism tale with a pace that neither falters nor meanders thanks to direct and zealous characters.