Waiting for the call to be patched through, Thea stared at the black and yellow symbol on the canisters. It wasn’t every day she was in the same room with enough nuclear material to start World War Three.
When it comes to imminent threats in this book, believe it or not, that’s not the worst.
So Thea is escorting a couple of former child-soldiers from their orphanage in Africa to their new parents when the jet they’re on is taken over by the pilot and lands near an out-of-the-way and nearly deserted hanger. Thea is separated from the other passengers — including the boys — who are taken to another site. She soon discovers that this was, in part, orchestrated by an Italian mob boss she’d tangled with before in a roundabout way of hiring Quantum International Security and getting them to adhere to a very strict deadline (I’m oversimplifying, obviously, but that’s the essence).
Both the hijacking and the task set before them put Thea, Rif and the rest of the company right in the middle of overlapping schemes involving secret armies that have been active since the end of World War II. These were originally set up to be the core of the resistance against Communist invasion, but in the intervening decades may have evolved into something else. Something scary.
Howe nails the interweaving storylines — there’s the hijacking story, and the plight of the passengers who aren’t Thea; there’s the tasks that the hijackers impose on Thea for their safe return; there’s whatever else the Italian mob is up to; there’s an Austrian secret army set out to attack a threat they perceive as more dire than the Communists they were set up to fight; and there’s one person who is out to stop the Austrians. These are all grounded by some good interpersonal stories and moments. The plotting and pacing are tight and believable. Howe will suck you in and keep you turning the pages.
Howe can write action scenes that stack up with the best. The events on the plane were dynamite — I knew Thea would make it, but I could’ve believed just about anything else would happen. Also, it’s going to be awhile before I think of those locked cabin doors in the same positive way we’re supposed to. There’s some great combat scenes, a few action scenes that might as well be on a movie screen.
My complaints are pretty minor, really. I thought a lot of the emotional motivations for behaviors were a tad shallow or rushed, all of them were valid and honest to the characters — I just think they could’ve been written better. It’s tough to pick out examples without entering spoiler territory. So let me vaguely mention that the level of hate spouted by the head of the Austrian group, and the way he expressed it, sounds more like a guy spouting off on Twitter than a very successful businessman who is charismatic enough to get many to commit to a cause. The growing/evolving relationship between Thea and Rif continues the path begun in The Freedom Broker. and Howe could’ve been more subtle and less repetitive showing that. I do enjoy watching this — and figure I will over a few books.
I enjoyed this ride — it had the requisite twists and turns, exciting, tense, well-paced — everything you want in a thriller. It ticked off just about every box you want in a thriller. Yes, it was lacking that certain je ne sais quoi that kicks it up into the “I’m excited to read” level, but I’m pleased I did and will keep my eyes peeled for Thea Paris #3.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Quercus Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.