Cotton Malone of the Magellan Billet, the Justice Department’s elite intelligence group, once again yanks the U.S. back from the precipice of annihilation.
Berry’s (The Patriot Threat, 2015, etc.) modus operandi is always all-action, and here, his stalwart hero, Malone, a Top Gun pilot–turned–secret operative, has been dispatched to Siberia by Billet chief Stephanie Nelle on orders from lame-duck President Danny Daniels. Daniels is doing a favor for an unstable Russian government, which is worried about rumors of former KGB operatives with access to suitcase-sized nuclear weapons. Those bombs were hidden away when a hard-line Soviet premier needed a response to Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II’s plan to destabilize the Soviet Union. Malone discovers that the weapons and the plan to use them are real. Daniels must respond in the last few hours of his administration. Magellan characters remain stock types, nuanced with hints of romance as Malone’s estranged love, Cassiopea Vitt, returns and Nelle awaits the retiring president’s divorce. The primary bad guy, one-time KGB superagent Aleksandr Zorin, is believable, a once-loyal apparatchik disillusioned by the kleptocrats’ hold on Russia. There’s a trail of shootouts, bombs, fires, and hand-to-hand combat from Siberia’s exotic Lake Baikal to Prince Edward Island, refuge of a sleeper agent, to Washington, D.C’s corridors of power. The plot is familiar—good guys chase bad guys to avert major crises—but Berry this time complicates the scenario with a second storyline. It involves The Society of Cincinnati, a fraternity founded after the Revolutionary War by and for the male descendants of veterans. How that organization’s longtime desire for a 14th colony ties into Russian resentment is left for Malone and his Magellen cohorts to dig up.
Longer than it needs to be but Berry gunfights his way entertainingly enough to the save-the-world conclusion of this formulaic yarn.