When terrorists kidnap and hold for ransom UNICEF workers in the Middle East, a man gathers his fellow Army Rangers to save the abductees, including his wife, in this debut thriller.
Having been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, Department of Defense analyst Jim Warwick has seen his share of violence in the Middle East. So the Ranger’s understandably apprehensive about his wife, Julie, assessing children’s medical needs in Arabic countries for UNICEF. Julie promises to call Jim every night during her two weeks in Oman and Yemen. When she misses a call, Jim assumes the worst and, unfortunately, with good reason: Julie and three others from UNICEF have vanished. An organization called Liberté claims the abduction and demands a hefty ransom. Jim, however, thinking the United Nations is not doing enough, orchestrates a rescue mission with Ranger pals Scott Masters, Ed Hill, George McConnell, and Damon Harris. Leaving Damon in the United States to handle communications/logistics, and bringing Julie’s military-trained best friend, Rachael Fayyad, the group first travels to Yemen. The band follows the terrorists’ trail, getting intelligence however it can, be it bribery or torture. After the initial ransom deadline passes and results in one hostage dead, Jim is desperate to find Julie before Liberté, an al-Qaida offshoot, decides to get rid of the remaining trio. The story’s believable, grounded characters contrast with the oft-referenced, larger-than-life Hollywood heroes. The Rangers, for one, rely on reconnaissance and stealth, avoiding full-on assaults in enemy territory. And they’re not without flaws; Jim, recovering from injuries in Afghanistan that may necessitate an amputation, becomes addicted to painkillers. There’s little perspective from Julie as a captive, heightening suspense, as it’s not always clear whether she’s still alive. Similarly, what her captors may or may not do to her is predominantly left to readers’ imaginations, which is just as effective as witnessing potential horrors. Ollivier steers clear of foul language, opting for “holy smokes” or the occasional “gosh dammit.” But it’s an odd contradiction to the Rangers’ interrogative methods, like waterboarding or convincing someone he’s eating his own flesh— when what he’s actually consuming isn’t much better.
Real-world characters should engage readers, though the R-rated scenes aren’t as muted as the author perhaps intended.