The ninth in Ludlum’s Covert-One series (The Ares Decision, 2011, etc.) again joins the perilous adventures of Lt. Col. Jon Smith of the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
Series fans will forgive a clunky first chapter wherein extraneous exposition interferes with the play-by-play of a terrorist attack on the Grand Royal Hotel at The Hague. Smith is in the Netherlands for a World Health Organization conference on Third-World infectious diseases. Coincidently, Oman Dattar is incarcerated at The Hague by the International Criminal Court. Dattar and Smith have a history. Dattar is wont to employ population “cleansing,” and once Smith extorted the warlord into allowing treatment to stem a cholera outbreak. Dattar seeks vengeance on Smith and on Great Britain and the U.S. Thus, the hotel attack was also a diversion to help engineer Dattar’s escape, with henchmen tasked specifically to kill Smith and to purloin conference bacteria and virus samples from the hotel’s safe. Action flies to the U.S., with the CIA’s Randi Russell brought into the mix because Smith found a target list on his assassin. Besides his own name and that of old friend and fellow covert operator Peter Howell, there’s a photograph of a mysterious woman. Internet hacking by Smith’s longtime friend and computer expert, Marty, discovers the woman is Rebecca Nolan, a high-wattage Wall Street money manager. Dattar wants her captured rather than dead. Every chapter ricochets with need-to-know action, especially after a bioweapon attack on Russell at her home. An analysis of the substance reveals Dattar may be developing a near-unsurvivable form of avian flu virus mated with Shewanella MR-1 bacteria, a life form that can conduct through metal, something akin to a microbial fuel cell. Good guys and bad meet in New York City. Smith finds and then loses an uncooperative Nolan, a woman with a secret that makes her a target for Dattar, in town to conduct a terrorist attack.
Freveletti turbocharges tension to nonstop levels in this Covert-One thriller.