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Two Himalayan Thrillers

Soul of Fire” by Eliot Pattison and “Tibetan Cross” by Mike Bond both have themes set in the Himalayas and both will leave readers both spell-bound and full of questions about international policies and actions taken in Tibet and on behalf of Tibetan freedom fighters.  Both are exciting page-turners and both will leave readers deeply troubled about what is and has been going on in Tibet and Nepal for decades.

Pattison’s new novel, “Soul of Fire,” is the eighth in his Inspector Shan Novels series.  Shan has been appointed as a token Chinese dissident to an international panel meeting in Lhasa to “investigate” the spate of self-immolation deaths of Tibetan protestors.  What Shan uncovers is a systematic attempt on the part of the commission’s Chinese handlers to control the commissions findings, discredit the Tibetan freedom-fighters and murdering anyone who objects by staging deaths as immolation suicides.  The scenes describing an immolation, which several commission members witness, is pretty graphic and grim.  It is not a subject every reader will have the stomach to read about, but anyone who follows the book to its conclusion will have a better understanding of what motivates many Tibetans to take their own lives, and also how and why Tibetan freedom-fighters continue to strike out against Chinese domination.

Bond’s “Tibetan Cross” is equally thought-provoking and it takes quite a different point-of-view.  This novel is set during the Cold War period.  Four Americans who either fought in Vietnam, or were war dissidents have set up a business in Katmandu leading treks into the Himalayan mountains.  The book opens while they are leading a group they find out are linked to the CIA on a mission that turns out to be quite different than the one they thought they signed up for.  An accident reveals that their convoy is really delivering weapons, including a nuclear bomb, to Tibetan freedom-fighters to use against the Chinese.  The CIA operatives waste no time in killing two of their American guides and chasing the other two around the world in an effort to silence them about what they saw.  The protagonist, Sam Cohen, learns through bitter experience that he cannot rely on anyone, and everyone he comes in contact with after the incident on a Nepali pass will be brutally murdered by the CIA.  “Tibetan Cross” is a very dark and cynical look at U.S. and international intelligence forces and the measures they will take to complete a mission no matter what the cost.  What I find a little disappointing is that it was difficult to develop any real sympathy for Cohen because he also employed brutal tactics and killed innocents when they got in the way.  It was hard to find anyone to actually like in this story– all the good guys were killed off.  Still, many thriller readers and fans of Bond’s earlier novels will find “Tibetan Cross” both exciting and thought-provoking. Both books get a thumbs up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Deadly Glance by Dallas Taylor

Deadly Glance” is about an attempted takeover of the United State and the U.S. economy by a transplant industrialist who grew up in Cuba and entered the U.S. via Mexico.  As this megalomaniac, Al Chord, steadily acquired companies he also built a non-profit called World One with a seemingly positive message of world unity.  What Chord only made clear to a select few leaders in World One was that the world would be unified  under one dictator– himself.

A former CIA agent and current attorney for a firm with offices in Dallas and Washington D.C., Jeff Walker, is the one to save the world from this new autocratic threat.  His firm comes to the attention of Chord when Walker’s D.C. partners, Bob Wright and Lil Turner, began to lobby on Capitol Hill on behalf of affirmative action legislation. This cause runs counter to Chord’s concept of who should get ahead in the world and jeopardizes some of his business interests.  Bob and Lil get threats that they believe are tied to the World One movement.  The police chalk up the threatening calls Bob receives to pranksters– until Bob turns up dead. Intrigue further surrounds Walker and his best friend, Holly, when they meet a club singer named Victoria who apparently also works for Chord. The more Jeff learns about Chord and World One the more convinced he becomes that World One is a threat not only to himself and his friends, but to the free world as we know it.

Deadly Glance” is a highly suspenseful thriller, although Dallas Taylor could have come up with a cause that is more hotly contested politically such as the energy issue or the privacy issue than affirmative action/diversity.  In the end the trigger issue is just an excuse to begin the process of world take-over by World One and probably does not matter.  I look forward to more political/international thrillers with Jeff Walker as the protagonist.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

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Retribution by Anderson Harp

The international thriller, “Retribution” has just been published by Pinnacle Books/Kensington Publishing Corp.  I have been chomping at the bits to get a review out for this book for the past month.  It is one of those gripping plots where it is very hard to put the book down.  I finished all 519 pages in record time, long before I was scheduled to get this review out and I’ve spent a good share of today rereading portions of this fast-paced thriller.

Set in the harsh mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a master spy, James Scott, is tasked to head a CIA/special forces operation to infiltrate a Jihadist cell, kill the terrorist leader, and stop the transport of several nuclear core devices into the U.S.   He works with a combined military special forces/CIA and MI6 group to train and deploy to Pakistan for the mission. He recruits Will Parker, who is multilingual and steeped in Islamic culture and a former Marine, to impersonate a Bosnian journalist who is about to start a new job as a journalist for an extremist Islamic publication in London.   That journalist has already been invited to visit the terrorist leader in his mountain hide-out.

Counter-intelligence operations make it clear that the post-Bin Laden leaders intend to target major population centers in the U.S. with nuclear bombs literally flown in under the radar.  These suicide bombers have been trained to fly small aircraft at low altitudes to avoid radar detection.  Once the nuclear cores are in the U.S. it will become almost impossible to stop all of the attacks. The terrorists’ leader appears to be one of the people responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, and William Parker’s  parents were among the passengers killed on that flight.    Planning for a new series of catastrophic bombings appears to be well along the way so U.S. special forces must respond quickly to the threat. Parker wants nothing more than to exact Retribution on the terrorists.

The book is a nail-biter right from the get-go.  It starts with a low altitude small plane flight across Lake Michigan from Canada to the Chicago shoreline.  From the very first chapter the reader knows that there is a real and present threat of nuclear catastrophe if the terrorist cell is not squashed immediately.    The mission seems like a real “Hail Mary” as there are so many moving parts and people to coordinate.  There is also an ingenious plan devised for Parker to kill off massive numbers of the terrorist cell without getting killed himself.  That plan almost backfires.

Harp’s experience as a Marine training officer shows through in the lingo he uses and the descriptions made of weaponry and military covert ops tactics.  No one but a well-trained military officer could have written this book.

Those who enjoyed “Lone Survivor” and “The Hurt Locker,” friends of the show “Homeland” and lovers of books by Tom Clancy will love “Retribution.”  Highly recommended as one of the best thrillers in ages.

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed using a supplied copy.)

 

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The Russian Endgame by Allan Topol

The Russian Endgame” is the last of a trilogy in the “Craig Page Thriller” series by Topol.  It’s very much in the tradition of Ludlum and Clancy as a nail-biter of a spy thriller.

Topol doesn’t mince words.  His style is direct and description is sparse, but effective in getting across the fact that post-Cold War East-West relations are still pretty frigid.  In this Endgame chapter the EU Director of Counterterrorism Agency, Craig Page, is invited back to the CIA as its director by the new president following the assassination of the previous president.  Page tried unsuccessfully to get his predecessor at the CIA to act on a strong tip that a former Russian KGB agent was headed for the US to undertake some major act of terrorism.  As a result, that spy, Orlov, acting on behalf of both Chinese and Russian presidents, managed to recruit a Pakistani sleeper to carry out an assassination of the US president.  I won’t reveal more of the plot than this, although there are plenty more chilling episodes in the book– more than enough to keep the interest of those who like a good spy thriller.

For the most part the plot seems plausible, and very chilling at that. “The Russian Endgame” makes it very clear that in the amoral world of espionage there is more dis-information generated than truthful accounting of what is going on in foreign affairs today.  The recent revelations of phone taps on the major leaders of the world is no doubt  just the tip of the iceberg.

Spy thriller enthusiasts will have a hard time putting “The Russian Endgame” down.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

 

 

 

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King’s Deception by Steve Berry

I had to wait awhile to get hold of  a copy of “The King’s Deception” at my local library.  It was worth the wait.

Berry has written a tightly wound thriller about the world of foreign espionage, but instead of the the American spy being a “good guy” he is a very bad guy.  This bad spook, Blake Antrim, is out to expose British historical secrets and in the process to steal his son back from the woman he had an affair with 16 years earlier.  He wants the kid to himself and thus has hatched a plot to kill the man this boy has always called his father, Cotton Malone, a former CIA operative who now owns a bookstore in Copenhagen.   Antrim is the head of a U.S. covert operation in Britain called the King’s Deception.  He threatens to expose that Queen Elizabeth I was actually a man, a bastard grandson of Henry VIII, who was placed in the role of impersonating the young Elizabeth when she secretly died at the age of 13, or so the legend goes.  What the CIA operative wants is for England to force the Scottish government to give up plans to send the mastermind behind the Lockerbie air disaster back to Libya in a humanitarian gesture when the man contracts terminal cancer.  Antrim is pitted against an equally cold-blooded MI6 operative who is determined to keep the rumor about Elizabeth I from ever getting any further, destroying the proof of the royal ruse, and killing anyone who knows about it.

Antrim weaves a rather complex plot to gain his recently-discovered son back by having his boss contact Cotton Malone to ask him to accompany a young man who has stolen British historical secrets back from the U.S. to London.  Malone decides to take his son back to Copenhagen with him, via London, for a Thanksgiving break.  What he doesn’t know is Antrim has designs on the boy and plans to eliminate Malone and eventually his former wife, while he is playing a blackmail game against the British.

There is a lot to “The King’s Deception” that is just plausible enough to allow the reader to get sucked in to the story instead of dismissing it out of hand.  The descriptions of iconic historical places in and around London will fascinate those who have never visited London and bring back fond memories to those who have visited many times and love London and British history.

The thriller is based around an historical legend made popular by Bram Stoker in 1910, based on very thin historical evidence purporting that Elizabeth I was actually a man in drag.  Berry invents a secret coded diary supposedly kept by Elizabeth’s close counselors, the Cecils, which is discovered and finally translated as the smoking gun that provides evidence as to the ruse behind the Elizabethan throne.  This diary is purely an invention the author uses to further his story, and is a most creative way to weave this legend into this modern-day thriller.  One might ask, who could possibly care what happened 400 years ago, but, given that so many English families divided the spoils of Ireland at that time, it is possible to see that the chain of title to a lot of real property could be clouded if the authority that originally gave those rights to many prominent English families were suddenly to be put into question.  Still, it is a pretty cynical proposition to believe that CIA and MI6 officials think historical secrets
are so important that they can justify eliminating civilian men, women and children who discover the secret as “collateral damage.”

The King’s Deception” is a quick read that is highly recommended for those who enjoy British historical themes wrapped around a modern-day espionage thriller.

Liz Nichols

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