Helping out a cancer-ridden friend, a former Green Beret colonel and CIA operative uncovers a conspiracy involving U.S. government officials in this thriller.
Widower Luke Archer has left the Special Forces and CIA behind and is now a fifth-grade teacher in Maine. But he launches his own mission after visiting John Lee, an old pal from the Army, who’s in the hospital dying of cancer. Lee refused to sell his mountain cabin and property to his new neighbors, the Department of Energy, whose mysterious work nearby likely toxified his water, killing his dogs. Looking into the Notice of Eminent Domain Lee’s just received, Archer learns the department is doing rock melting, a method for disposing of nuclear waste. The true instigator, however, is V-Tec, a massive nuclear energy conglomerate that maintains a low profile. Archer digs into the company’s funding, especially once it’s clear that Lee’s illness wasn’t accidental but a deliberate poisoning. Archer and his team, including ex–Mossad agent Machla “Max” Peretz, tie V-Tec to some politicians calling themselves the Soldiers of the Union and targeting government peers for assassination. Taking down the SU, however, will be problematic due in large part to the baddies framing Archer for murder and terrorism. The novel, by Fenzel (The Sterling Forest, 2016, etc.) and debut author Rendall, sports a speedy momentum, with action in sudden bursts, presented in various styles. A standout scene, for example, is Max facing off against would-be assailants, all relayed to Archer via text messages. There’s a plethora of surprises as well; at least one of Archer’s colleagues doesn’t make it to the end, and a character’s reveal late in the narrative is genuinely shocking. The protagonist’s curious back story entails his capture and torture years ago by a Pakistani militia and the case of his wife’s murder, still cold after more than a decade. Moreover, his scenes with a veterinarian named Elena Campbell are smartly understated, a potential romance that doesn’t sideline the main plot.
Appealing heroes whom readers should cheer in every confrontation, explosive or otherwise.