Branam’s (Hunting Evil, 2015, etc.) latest thriller finds former Army Ranger Tom Wolfe, now with the FBI, assembling his own covert team to save his kidnapped wife in Iran.
Vernon Crassman blames Tom and Terry Wolfe for his current misery. The couple targeting the criminal CEO is the reason he lost his power and wealth and is now in asylum in Iran. Crassman, deformed and in constant pain from a gunshot to the face (the Wolfes didn’t do that one), willingly trades his stealth technology to Iranians for help allocating his revenge. This starts with a six-man team abducting Terry from the couple’s Lake Tahoe cabin while Tom’s in Quantico, leaving a note designating 15 days to find the woman. Tom’s certain Crassman’s in Iran, but FBI boss Ed Johnson can’t sanction a rescue mission thanks to a presidential ban on operations in that country. So Tom rallies a few capable individuals—some friends (California cop Ray Burton) and new cohorts (enigmatic Allahand, Ed’s recommendation). Terry, meanwhile, may have a means of escape: a potential ally among her captors. Tracking down Terry is Tom’s top priority, but there’s also a side job from Ed (identify a traitor), while taking out Crassman is a perennial temptation. Branam’s third installment of his Wolfe series is his most rapidly paced novel yet: Terry’s abduction happens quickly, and Tom’s team encounters all types of obstacles, from Islamic State group militants to distrust among the rescue operation’s members. The narrative is ample in details (thoroughly mapping out Crassman’s compound) and characters’ histories, especially shared ones. References to earlier books, in fact, are so well incorporated that accompanying footnotes—in one instance specifying how and in what story someone “got what he deserved”—are superfluous. Terry’s not a typical hostage, proving smart and proficient even in captivity. The characters in general offer plenty of surprises; some withholding information could signify a double cross and not everyone manages to walk away from the mission unscathed.
Full-tilt action drops recurring and new characters into a plot rife with gunfire and the occasional explosive.