SOFT TARGET by Stephen Hunter


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In Hunter’s latest, someone shoots Santa Claus and suddenly 1,000 holiday shoppers are converted into hostages.

In Bloomington, Minn., Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving which, for retailers, is both a blessing and a curse, is on the cusp of becoming blood-soaked Friday. With a 4-year-old sitting in his lap, Santa has taken a sniper’s bullet and gone to meet his maker. Instantly, America, the Mall, that huge and opulent shoppers’ Mecca, turns chaotic. Terrified people race not for bargains but for exits, desperate to escape a follow-up fusillade. Many are fortunate enough to break free. About 1,000, however—mostly women and children—are herded into a central area by gunmen calling themselves the Brigade Mumbai. Heavily armed and avowedly vengeful—the death of Osama besmirches jihadists everywhere—they are as eager for martyrdom as they are for murder. Among the shoppers, albeit reluctantly, is Ray Cruz, a retired marine sniper, son of the iconic marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, whose valorous exploits Hunter has richly detailed (Dead Zero, 2010, etc.). Sweet-talked by his brand new fiancée, Ray has ventured into mall world as tentatively as if it were an Afghan minefield. But now, circumstances having altered drastically, he’s back in his element, undercover and looking for targets. Brigade Mumbai puts forward its demands. The situation intensifies, approaches the tipping point. By this time it’s clearly understood by the authorities that they’re dealing with a suicide mission and the potential for a horrific massacre. Snipers and SWAT teams gather, but only one man is in an advantageous tactical position, behind enemy lines, as it were. Only one man, but he’s Bob Lee Swagger’s son, and what a good thing it is that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

A too-abundant cast dilutes the protagonist’s presence, but the action scenes are well done as usual and the premise chills.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-3870-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2011


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