by Stephen Clark
eARC, 287 pg.
WiDo Publishing, 2017
Read: June 23 – 24, 2017
Let’s get this out of the way: yeah, this title is just bad. The book is much better than you’d think from the title.
The first chapter really turned me off — the assassin spews some sort of pseudo-patriotic babble before he kills the imam (who really doesn’t seem to be that much of a bad guy) and I was starting to dread the next 250+ pages and wondered if I could fake something to get out of reading the book. Then I remembered the email from Clark a few weeks back where he said something about the assassin becoming disillusioned, and was able to push on. I’m glad I did. (I guess it’s also efficient writing — it took less than a chapter for me to be convinced that what he was up to was reprehensible)
When the inaugural parade following the ceremony is bombed, and the new president’s son is among the dead, she starts looking for new ways to combat terrorism within the US. One of the top men in the CIA has a proposal — Operation Prevent. Rather than waiting for the FBI to arrest and prosecute people after an attack, or even to try to prevent an attack. He suggests going for the people that “radicalize” US citizens into supporting terrorism or into becoming terrorists. And by “going for” I mean, assassinate. He has some pretty flimsy argument to justify the execution of US citizens without trial — and the president sends him off to make some fixes. But before long, he’s empowered (by someone else) to initiate the Operation anyway.
Enter Justin Raines — he’s currently waiting for an internal investigation into a botched CIA op to determine his future, when he’s given the opportunity to join Operation Prevent. He’s not utterly convinced it’s the way to go, but it’s the only chance he sees to stay active, so he takes the position and begins eliminating targets. But doubts start to creep in and when he’s assigned to kill a Muslim educator (who happens to be attractive and witty) everything begins to unravel.
Before long, Justin is teaming with old comrades to get more information on the Operation to expose it to the public and bring it down.
I had a lot of trouble buying some of the mechanics of the book — the Secret Service seemed to talk a lot to the president before doing something to ensure her safety, for example. The same for some other nit-picky things, but you step back from the details and it all worked pretty well (or just pretend that the details are right). Yeah, it’s depiction of the CIA and how it works internally and externally is probably closer to Covert Affairs than reality, but the USA show was a lot more entertaining than reality, so bring it on.
The characters could’ve been a little more fully developed for my tastes, but they were good enough for this kind of book. I liked the fact that it wasn’t just Justin vs. the world — he had allies, some new, some old to get through things. There were also parties acting with similar goals that had nothing to do with him — too often this kind of story relies on a single protagonist to be the only one standing up for Truth, Justice and the American Way.
There’s some good action and intrigue here, a story that’s timely (and, sadly, will likely be so for a while), with some good characters, a nice pace and a satisfying ending. Give this one a shot the next time you’re looking for a quick thrill ride.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for this post. I appreciated the book and the opportunity, but it had no bearing on what I said.