A group of SEALs nicknamed the Outcasts enter Iran to stop a nuclear terrorism plot against the U.S. Even though the U.S. SEAL teams are elite, there are some threats and plots that are too sensitive for normal military channels. For those special projects, the military created Bitter Ash: the home for missions that, if exposed, will be denied by everyone. One of the two teams in Bitter Ash are the Outcasts and their latest mission sends them deep into the heart of Iran to stop a nuclear and biological threat.
Alex Brandenberg is the team leader and he and his squad parachute into Iran to find a base that is rumored to be manufacturing the material for small nuclear weapons. Once on the ground, they meet up with a local contact who guides them to the base. They're able to destroy most of it, but learn from one of the scientists that there is a bigger base in the country that the U.S. is unaware of. The scientist offers to guide them to the secret base, but before she'll do it, they have to retrieve her scientist husband, who is being held captive in Lebanon by Hamas.
So the team heads off to Lebanon, where they identify the prison where the scientist is being held. They manage to get help from Leila, a local widow who agrees to help them sneak into the prison. She is bright and lonely and begins to fall for team member Alex. They successfully retrieve the hostage, but are pursued by a trio of Iranian operatives who are familiar with the Outcasts and are vowing to stop them at any cost.
Despite the odds, the team agrees to reenter Iran and destroy the secret research base. It turns out that not only are they doing nuclear research, but they have created a biological weapon which could decimate the world. They manage to destroy the weapons, but in the escape Leila is killed.
Back in the U.S., Alex's enlistment period is near an end and he is considering retirement. He'd like a more normal life and the death of Leila had a big impact on him. In the end, he decides to stay in the military and in Bitter Ash because he realizes that this is the work he was meant to do.
Best part of story, including ending:
The story was a combination of cookie-cutter elements and some almost impossible to believe plot twists. It all plays out a bit cartoonish and if this was a movie, it would star Steven Seagal.
Best scene in story:
The scene in which the squad grieves over the death of Leila is the best scene in the book and easily the most emotionally honest. There is a genuine sense of loss and it feels real as you read it.
Opinion about the main character:
Alex Brandenberg is supposed to be the hero and he certainly does heroic things. But the problem is that his character (and everyone else in the book) is written so predictably that it's difficult to make an emotional connection with him.