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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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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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