- - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

FOREIGN AGENT

By Brad Thor

Atria/Emily Bestler Books, $27.99, 435 pages

Brad Thor always packs into his thrillers more fast-paced action and particularly clever twists and turns of riveting suspense than just about anyone else writing in this genre. He’s remarkably adept at keeping the reader on edge, wondering what could possibly come next and where it’s all going to lead. You can’t seem to turn the pages fast enough as you anxiously anticipate what you might discover at the ending.

Each time I finish one of his thrillers I just know I’ll have to wait probably a year before reading another anywhere near as good and that it, too, will probably be by him. With this prolific author — 16 books so far, closing in on 12 million copies in print — you can be sure another is in the works. He’s produced a best-selling novel every year beginning in 2002 — and two in 2013.

“Foreign Agent” is the 15th novel in Mr. Thor’s Scot Harvath series. While there is, naturally, a chronological order to the series, each story also stands on its own so it doesn’t matter if you read this one or some other one first.

A former U.S. Navy SEAL with incredible skills and wide-ranging experience in espionage who has time and again proven himself effective handling challenging undertakings around the world, Harvath works with the CIA and is directly involved with the president of the United States. But he does so through a very private intelligence operation headed by an icon of U.S. intelligence.

The naive, the weak and timid and those who see our country as being as much a part of the problem as it is the solution would go ballistic and work to destroy the president politically and ruin everything if they ever realized the extent of the tough, beyond-top-secret actions he has launched against the terrorists that stretch the boundaries of what is legally permitted.

To enable the president and the top leadership of the CIA to have plausible deniability, the private intelligence operation gives Scot Harvath a very wide leash and very broad discretion and sets him loose to terrorize the terrorists, unleashing a secretive full fury of American vengeance to cripple their effectiveness and eliminate their operatives.

Harvath is, in effect, the president’s personal secret weapon in the highly unconventional war that he knows he must wage to counter and ultimately defeat the terrorists who threaten America. If you’re acquainted with Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp or Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan but not Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath, you will want to be, and you’ll find yourself cheering him on with equally great enthusiasm.

“Foreign Agent” opens with ISIS conducting a surprise, well-planned attack against a clandestine CIA safe house in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, killing every American. A U.S. special ops team had been positioned there just recently waiting for the CIA to give the signal that the timing was right to slip across into nearby Syria to seize a key ISIS figure for some seriously tough interrogation.

How did ISIS even have any idea that this site existed let alone that there was such a precious American target inside? Mr. Thor’s fictionalized president is no fool and can’t believe that this is just some lucky coincidental break for ISIS any more than Benghazi was just a case of some video critics run amok. So Scot Harvath gets tasked with discovering what went wrong and what to do in response.

His race to find answers takes him on a nerve-racking whirlwind mission around Europe and the Middle East — Vienna, Brussels, Malta, Jordan and Syria — struggling to protect his country against a terror plot that features not just ISIS but Russia, too. Its awful extent includes the assassination of the U.S. secretary of defense in Turkey, deaths on the front lawn of the White House, a mole endangering national security coming from near the highest level of power in Washington and the prospect of worse to come.

Any more plot details risks spoiling some of the fun for you. Just know that anyone who enjoys a good thriller should find “Foreign Agent” the best thriller of the year. It’s an exciting and very entertaining read.

“My number one goal,” Brad Thor has said, “is to entertain people … . But if you close the book with questions or wanting to learn more about something or feel just a little bit smarter, then I think that’s a neat kind of value add.”

And that — this rare added value — sets Brad Thor far apart from and above nearly every other writer of such enjoyable spy and political thrillers. Most readers will come away from reading this entertaining thriller with a considerably deeper and significantly more accurate understanding of the nature of ISIS and similar jihadi threats against America than they’ve so far acquired from their usual sources of information.

Fred J. Eckert, a former Republican congressman from New York and former U.S. ambassador to Fiji, is author of “Hank Harrison for President” (Vandamere Press).

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