This third thriller novel from author Brad Thor picks up shortly after events depicted in “Path Of The Assassin” and once again Scot Harvath is quickly involved in the danger. At President Jack Rutledge's personal request, Agent Harvath moved from the Secret Service to a new position within the newly created “Office of International Investigative Assistance” which is part of the ever increasing Department of Homeland Security. The innocuous title hides the mission of the unit, which is to stop terrorists anywhere in the world by any means necessary. Harvath's old friend, mentor, and father figure Gary Lawlor, who was once the former Deputy Director of the FBI, is in charge of the Office. Now Lawlor has gone missing and Harvath is summoned back to Washington.
There is concern at the highest levels that Gary Lawlor has been a double agent, quite possibly for decades. The notion is unthinkable to Harvath because of the close bond they have shared in the wake of the death of Harvath's father years ago. However, as he is briefed, it becomes clear that everything he believed about Lawlor in the past has been a lie pushed forward by a cover image he needed on behalf of the United States Government. Now thanks to string of murders of other members of his intelligence team, several of which called Lawlor just before their deaths, those in charge believe he turned traitor years ago and has now fled. After telling Harvath the background on a “need to know” basis, they warn him off and instead he is supposed to sit back and wait for contact from Lawlor if and when it happens.
After everything he did in the first two novels, it should have been obvious to bosses, just like it is to the casual reader, that the last thing Harvath is going to do is sit back and wait. Harvath begins to work the case in an attempt to clear Lawlor's good name and unwittingly uncovers a Russian plot hatched during the last days of the Cold War. The plan is to return Russia to the ranks of the Super Powers and reduce America to a smoldering pile of nuclear contaminated rubble by way of backpack nuclear weapons in the hands of sleeper agents scattered throughout the country.
Relying more on character development, plotting, and believable scenarios, this novel is a great improvement over the caliber of writing seen in “Path Of The Assassin.” While working on the secondary storyline of the slowly developing romantic relationship between Harvath and Meg, the author manages to convey new background information on the Harvath character. Neither storyline gets in the way of the main complex plot that is almost Ludlum like in its complexity.
The storylines also do not get in the way of Brad Thor preaching about the value of democracy as he sees it or the need for patriotism. While both are laudable goals, at time the author wields a sledgehammer in regards to both topics. As such, especially towards the end as events build towards a climatic showdown at the National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., the events depicted are pushed to the side to lecture the reader. Such heavy handedness is unnecessary and detracts somewhat from what should be an exciting ending.
However, overall this is a read more on the level with his first effort “The Lions Of Lucerne” and a significant improvement over the second very shallow novel, “Path Of The Assassin.” Fortunately for readers new to this series, the author covers the events in the second novel in considerable detail thus sparing readers from wading through that novel. With background details quickly handled, the author plunges full ahead and the result is a fast paced constantly twisting tale in this 333 page novel that is well worth the read.
This report prepared by Kevin R. Tipple