Tag Archives: assassination plot

Techno-thriller finds assassin troubled by shadowy double

Assassin’s Run, by Ward Larsen. Forge. 368 pages. Hardcover $26.99.

This is the fifth of Mr. Larsen’s David Slaton Novels, and it is an amazingly ambitious addition to an ambitious series. A former Mossad operative, Slaton finds himself in a situation in which all fingers point toward him when a series of skillful, high-tech assassinations take place. Now trying to live a no-profile domestic life in order to protect his wife and young son, Slayton knows that he must track down the killer whose efforts are endangering his loved ones and his desire for a tranquil family life.  

He finds himself in the middle of a complex adjustment of the world’s strategic order.

The victims of the unknown assassin are Russian oligarchs who are killed in various settings, each slain by a single bullet that has traveled what seems to be an impossibly long distance. The scenes that reveal how Slaton discovers the exotic technology that his double has been armed with and mastered set an extremely high standard. What Slaton discovers is a large caliber guided bullet that can be programmed and adjusted in a way that parallels the technology of a guided missile.

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Slaton is approached by CIA agent Anna Sorensen who engages him in an effort to find out why – and by whom – the super-wealthy associates of Russia’s government leader, Petrov, are being threatened.

A weighty handful of additional plot strands slowly become intertwined with the initial action. One involves the private, secretive retooling of retired Russian jet fighters (MiGs) as drones. Another concerns the high-security annual assembly of the extended Saudi royal family. Yet another strand details the convergent mission of three freighters owned by a private Russian combine. We meet Russian military officials, engineers, ship’s captains, and a wide variety of functionaries necessary to populated and sustain the overall plot.

We also, standing behind the characters or the narrator and looking over their shoulders, perceive fascinating vistas. Assassin’s Run is quite a travelogue, taking us to vividly described scenes in Capri, Vieste, Sebastopol, Amalfi, and Rome. We also visit CIA headquarters in Langley, Virgina; the Kremlin in Moscow; Davos, Switzerland; Marrakesh, Morocco; and a collection of other locations. Some visits provide extended views, others a snapshot. The settings feel authoritatively written, but one yearns for a map. . . .

  • To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 7, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 8 Bonita Springs edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – Assassin’s Run

Soon in other local editions. 

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Almost down for the count, Kirk McGarvey rebounds to outdo the bad guys

Flash Points, by David Hagberg. Forge. 320 pages. Hardcover $25.99.

This electrifying thriller continues the battle between his continuing hero, Kirk McGarvey, and the shrewd, highly skilled freelance assassin introduced in Tower Down (reviewed in these pages). Let’s call that man, who has several identities, Kamal. He has roots in Saudi Arabia, but easily blends into Western environments. For sale to the highest bidder, he has his own agenda.  

At the top of Kamal’s list is the murder of “Mac,” his nemesis. Not only must he cleanse the world of this CIA operative and former director, Kamal needs to see Mac suffer, and maybe Mac’s girlfriend as well. Mac had foiled Kamal’s plan to bring down a second Manhattan skyscraper in “Tower Down.”

However, what’s making Kamal a very wealthy man is his agreement to put Mac out of the way for other reasons. Groups with opposing attitudes toward the new U. S. president want Mac out of the way because he is the person most likely to detect and foil their plans.

The group wishing to discredit the new president is bankrolling a series of terrorist catastrophes meant to undermine the stature of the inexperienced, ill equipped president. He will, so goes the scheme, inevitably blunder in ways that will make his replacement inevitable. This group’s leaders have put Kamal on their payroll.

The cadre that supports the new president wishes to use similar schemes to opposite ends. They will be manipulating events to make him look good; not only will the outcome assure solidifying his base, but also expanding it.

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The novel opens with an explosion meant to destroy Mac’s car and him with it. Planned by Kamal, misplacement of the explosive material by a hireling lessens the impact. Nonetheless, Mac loses a leg. The CIA leadership thinks it best for him to recuperate in secret and for the word to get out that he has been killed.

While Mac gets used to his peg leg and recovers from other wounds, he participates in the planning that will draw out the crafty Kamal.

Mr. Hagberg alternates the center of consciousness so that readers switch back and forth between following Kamal’s thoughts, emotions, and actions and following Mac’s. The tradecraft and courage of each is well displayed, as is their sharp contrast in values. Suspense builds higher and higher as the inevitable confrontation draws closer and closer. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 23, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 24 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – Flash Points

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Beautifully paced and structured mystery thriller reveals ugly truths

The Cardinal’s Sin, by Robert Lane. Mason Alley Publishing. 368 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.

The third “Jake Travis” novel meets and beats any expectations that Mr.Lane’s readers developed from enjoying “The Second Letter” and “Cooler Than Blood,” both reviewed in these pages. It starts with a bang and never lets up. The bang is Jake’s assignment: he is tasked with killing an assassin who targets the relatives and other loved ones of special operations agents. Yes, this is exactly it. He must assassinate an assassin.

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As they must in order to have a story line, things go wrong. Jake seriously compromises his relationship with Kathleen, the love of his life, with whom he has been enjoying a European vacation when the assignment reaches him. Understandably, he keeps his assignment from her, but this turns out to be a mistake. Meaning to protect her, he inevitably belittles her. Much of this fine novel provides a moving and sophisticated exploration of the relationship between Kathleen and Jake, one in which the killing power of words vies with the powerful finality of the assassin’s craft.

And there is this other mistake. Jake has been informed that his target is a man who uses the disguise of a Cardinal’s garb. At the proper time and at the proper place, he shoots the faux Cardinal; however, he shoots an actual Cardinal – a man who might have had a death wish.

The Cardinal is a man named Giovanni Antinori, a popular and progressive prelate known as the People’s Cardinal.  Somehow, he had replaced Jake’s intended Kensington Gardens target, a man known as Alexander Paretsky, whose recent work against U. S. interests had followed a major security breach revealing the names of U. S. clandestine agents.

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A photograph in his victim’s hand eventually becomes an important item in the investigation that Jake and his cohorts conduct, along with assistance from an FBI connection. Mr. Lane’s readers know these carefully etched characters. One is Garrett, a co-worker on Jake’s assignments directed by Colonel Janssen. Another is Morgan, Jake’s neighbor on paradisiacal St. Pete’s Island. FBI special agent Natalie Binelli seems a reluctant contributor of information, but a most useful one.

The colonel tells Jake that Paretsky has been seen with a beautiful woman named René Lambert, whose father Donald just happens to live an island away from Jake, and she becomes a key figure in Jake’s effort to uncover Paretsky and put an end to his killing spree. But she proves hard to find. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 4, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 5 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Cardinal’s Sin

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Politics push the plot in suspenseful seafaring adventure

The Assassin’s Honor, by Robert N. Macomber. Pineapple Press. 392 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

One of the great feelings that comes over me when I settle into a new Honor Series novel by Mr. Macomber is the sense that I’m in such capable and caring hands. It’s like having an insurance policy against disappointments. And there are none in the twelfth installment of this unique and durable series. The action is set in December of 1892. Commander Peter Wake, after 29 years in the navy that includes 10 years in the Office of Naval Intelligence with assignments worldwide, is finally in charge of his own ship – a new cruiser, “Bennington,” of the latest design. Assassin's_Maple cover

As one might expect, he is regularly in the company of his career-long aide, Boatswain Sean Rork, an estimable ruffian from Ireland. Theirs is a very special relationship, a deep friendship that goes far beyond the conventions of officer and subordinate.

If this new post sounds like settling down, it isn’t quite that. However, there is a romance brewing. If it develops as both parties hope, Wake could once again be a married man. The quick-start relationship with a beautiful Spanish woman of breeding and intelligence is a major attraction for the readers and for Peter Wake, especially since she takes a liberal stance toward Cuba’s future that allies her with her admirer. Finding the time to spend with her is as great a problem as meeting the challenges of his duties.

The action moves between Key West and Tampa, with interludes along the Caribbean coast of Mexico, in Jamaica, and – in part through flashbacks that sketch his first encounter with Maria Ana Maura y Abad – in Washington D.C.

The main action is generated by a scheme to distract and mislead Wake. Fooled by clues that have been planted to mislead him, Wake convinces his superior, Admiral Walker, to send him to and beyond Cozumel to thwart an attempt by someone aboard the German “Gneisenau” to assassinate a Mayan rebel. The Germans, wishing to establish a naval station to protect their Mexican and other interests, can’t risk a government overthrow or instability.

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It turns out that Wake had succumbed to manipulated evidence designed to keep him occupied while an assassin was sent to Tampa (actually Yvor City) to do away with Wake’s good friend, the famed author and Cuban patriot José Martí. Wake’s old enemies from previous adventures, Germany and Spain, are working against him. The conflicts are both national and personal. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 23 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 24 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Assassin’s Honor

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