While investigating the death of his father and older brother, a U.S. Marine lieutenant becomes embroiled in an out-of-this world plot to hijack a military reconnaissance satellite in Valletta’s (The Journey of an American Boy, 2017, etc.) thriller.
“Battle-tested” Jack Gallaher (“all muscle, and tough as nails”) is recuperating on a hospital ship after escaping North Korean captors and surviving a brutal “cold wasteland.” His relief is short-lived, though, as he gets the news that during his brief captivity, his father, an Air Force rocket scientist, died while skydiving; the death was ruled a suicide. Soon after, his brother, an FBI special agent, is shot by a hotel room intruder. Things take a more suspicious turn when his father’s co-workers, each involved with the development of a “game-changing” weapon, meet untimely ends. Enter two villains worthy of a James Bond novel: Christian DeLorenzo, a businessman with a passion for science and space exploration; and Francois Rousseau, a suspected arms dealer. The plan is to sell Russia a laser-and-satellite combo that could change the balance of power in the Middle East—all to help finance DeLorenzo’s far-out dream. The plan is bonkers, yes, but it’s a welcome change of pace from thrillers’ usual terrorist plots. Valletta certainly knows his hardware (“The vanguard assailant brandished a Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifle”) but his novel’s pacing could have been tighter and its prose snappier (instead of lines such as “Something smelled fishy to Gallaher, and he knew it wasn’t what he had eaten for lunch earlier that afternoon”). Readers are also disappointingly denied a climactic confrontation between Gallaher and his nemeses. But for those who like old school international intrigue, this novel has it all, including spies with convoluted allegiances, “Oh…yes, baby” sex scenes, cutting-edge hardware, and silky-smooth evildoers who take their time before killing a captured hero (“That would take all of the fun out of this opportune circumstance”).
An undemanding diversion for thrill-seekers, featuring an impressive protagonist.