The fifth book in Reneau’s (Legend of War Creek, 2015, etc.) thriller series finds returning American geologist Trace Brandon facing off against terrorists in a politically restless West African country.
Trace is looking for a fresh start, having just lost someone he loved. Mali, where he can explore a gold concession with pal Gordon Watson, is as good a place as any. But unpleasantness may be on the horizon: Gordon’s leasing exploration rights from a company controlled by the furtive Gen. Timerov, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. At the same time, people like Oliver Olgetree, the U.S. ambassador to Mali, warn Trace of potential problems, from an arms dealer that the Saudis are gunning for to venomous scorpions and camel spiders. And this is before Gordon and Trace even have drilling equipment in the country. The biggest threat, as it turns out, may be al-Qaida, whose local members have taken shots at the crew’s plane and who’s most likely responsible for an assassination attempt against Trace. The geologist gets a helping hand from attorney/business partner Will Coffee and, surprisingly, Babba Dia, said arms dealer, who outfits the men with much-needed Uzis, and Humphrey Bogart–look-alike pilot Jean-Claude Renaud. But when al-Qaida kidnaps a friend, Trace will have to decide whether to pay the ransom or organize a rescue mission. Though the story’s brimming with obstacles for the protagonist, it’s the menacing atmosphere that proves most indelible. Military coups, for example, are common in West Africa—there’s an ever present chance of Trace and others finding themselves in danger of having operations in Mali interrupted or stopped altogether. More ominous but just as unsettling are giant fruit bats that seem to gather outside of Trace’s hotel room window. When not ducking bullets or missiles, the geologist dabbles in romance with Molly Wainwright; hasty love declarations are a little hard to believe, but U.S. Peace Corps supervisor Molly is an exceptional character. As in preceding books, Reneau’s laconic writing style is laced with humor, like cloud tendrils from an imminent storm equated with “the tentacles of a very pissed-off octopus.”
Trouble follows the protagonist everywhere he goes—and so should readers; each new tale’s as gripping as the last.