In this military adventure, a tight-knit team goes on a mission to find who’s responsible for poisoning drug users.
In Unnecessary Evils (2010), Ramsey introduced an elite, covert special operations unit tasked with infiltrating global hot spots. Led by U.S. Army Maj. Tom Curran, the team consists of Curran’s best friend, Chief Warrant Officer Constantine “Connie” Caraballo, staff sergeants Alex Fillippi and Oscar Perez, and Chief Warrant Officer Calvin King. In this installment, set some two years after the first, the team’s equilibrium is shaken; Connie is still pulling himself together after his wife was killed in an accident, and now his cousin Sal Sontoro has died. Worse yet, the team fears their recent covert operation—to implant tracking devices in illegal drug supplies—is related to the poisoning of Sal and other drug users. As the team vows to find out the truth behind the deaths, Curran gets encouragement from a strange but oddly familiar man, who tells him, “The mission you’re on now can tip the balance of good and evil.” A series of exciting, dangerous, and often violent escapades take the men through Panama, Mexico, Florida, and Haiti, from a cruise ship to a border town to a gated jungle lair. As the team handles unexpected twists, they find themselves confronting a conspiracy at the highest levels. Ramsey’s attention to character lifts this novel above standard guys-and-guns stories. These men have emotional as well as violent work to do, and their camaraderie is touching. Some readers may disagree with aspects of the book’s ideology, particularly regarding drugs, but the characters do discuss such issues thoughtfully. Ramsey also has a good ear for snappy dialogue and seems to know his military stuff. Unlike the lean, muscular protagonists, though, the book is overweight and slow, as it’s larded with inessential logistical details, editorializing, and information dumps (“[Belize’s] largest city, Belize City, is a peninsula only 3 ½ miles wide and 2 ½ miles high. The city is home to a third of the country’s population, about 300,000 people”). Its punctuation could also have used a cleanup.
Surprisingly reflective tough guys elevate an overloaded thriller.