In Glass’ (Ultimatum, 2009) geo-political thriller, the anarchist Lord’s Resistance Army has massacred American aid workers in Uganda, and U.S. President Tom Knowles cannot let the terrorist attack go without response because his party must control the 2018 midterm elections.
Knowles intends to chasten the ragtag murderers with bombs and bullets, but the People’s Republic of China fears the operation will compromise their petroleum interests in neighboring South Sudan. There’s also an East-West dispute over natural-resource–rich South Africa, where the ANC has turned dictatorial. These thorny problems might have been managed with skillful diplomacy, especially since Knowles is an artful politician who has restored confidence in the U.S. economy on a platform of “rectitude and trust,” but into the volatile mix comes billionaire speculator Ed Grey, owner of Red River, a diversified investment vehicle. Grey has taken a stock-market "short" position on Fidelian, a rockily capitalized investment bank in which a Chinese sovereign investment fund has a near-majority ownership. Grey’s actions sends Fidelian stock into a tailspin, but its board, influenced by the Chinese fund’s government agents, rejects a Knowles Administration–brokered rescue buy-out. Fidelian then goes bankrupt, and the entire stock market takes a nose-dive. As Knowles and his advisers try to engage the Chinese in an effort to stabilize the economy, every decision turns counterproductive, partly because the Chinese government is composed of an uneasy triumvirate. Then when U.S. pilots are shot down and held hostage in South Sudan, the miscommunications between the U.S. and China descend into a standoff, and a massive naval battle off the African coast seems imminent. Glass deftly handles a cast of characters large enough to require note taking, including a to-be-expected belligerent Defense Secretary and an out-of-the-loop but perceptive UN ambassador. The author has penned an action-driven, bite-your-nails, first-rate thriller, one best characterized by cribbing from the book itself: “The complexity of trying to link everything up together was mind-boggling.”
Fast-paced, emotionally tense and worrisomely true-to-life.