- - Thursday, July 14, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

GHOST SNIPER: A SNIPER ELITE NOVEL

By Scott McEwen and Thomas Koloniar

Touchstone, $24.99, 405 pages

With the take-down of Osama bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world, and other bold and brave military actions, the U.S. Navy SEALs and other special operations groups are respected and admired greatly. Although the elite special operators perform in a high state of operational security and secrecy, much has been written about them, as the public is very interested in these seemingly larger-than-life military men.

In addition to many nonfiction accounts of their military actions, a good number of thrillers offer Navy SEALs and other special operators as fictional heroes. A case in point is Scott McEwen and Thomas Koloniar’s “Sniper Elite” series of thrillers.

Ghost Sniper,” the latest thriller in the series, brings back Navy SEAL and Master Chief Gil Shannon and his comrade-in-arms, Daniel Crosswhite, a retired U.S. Army Delta Force operator and Medal of Honor recipient. The action takes place south of the border in this novel as the special operators take on a particularly vicious and ruthless Mexican drug cartel with highly-placed political connections.

The special operators are aided by a new character introduced to the series. Chance Vaught is a U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service special agent and former U.S. Army Green Beret who served eight years in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. As in previous thrillers in the series, the special operators are working for Bob Pope, the CIA director and head of a top-secret outfit called the Anti-Terrorism Response Unit (ATRU). Also part of the team in Mexico is Mariana Mederos, a CIA officer and ATRU member who previously worked with Crosswhite in Cuba and Mexico.

The thriller starts off with a bang, as Vaught is tasked with protecting Alice B. Downly, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, while she is in Mexico. Vaught and his security team are ordered to escort Downly across what the security people call the “two mile gauntlet” between the U.S. Embassy and the Mexican senate building.

The security convoy is attacked on route by men on motorbikes who spray the cars with 9 mm fire from Uzi automatic pistols. The cars also come under attack by rocket-powered grenades and sniper fire. Downly is killed, as are members of the security team.

Vaught takes off in hot pursuit of the francotirador, the sniper who cut down Downly in the street, but his chase is curtailed by corrupt Mexican police officers who detain him. Vaught spots among the officers a man holding a Barrett sniper rifle and sporting an Airborne Rangers tattoo. He later learns of the gringo called the “Ghost Sniper.”

The Ghost Sniper is a former U.S. Army Ranger named Rhett Hancock who has gone rogue. Hancock enjoys shooting and killing people and he’s found suitable and plentiful work in the employ of the drug cartel.

Vaught manages to escape and then discovers that he’s been assigned to work for the CIA. Vaught is ordered to hold up with Crosswhite, who lives in Mexico with his young Mexican wife. Meanwhile, Master Chief Gil Shannon is in Liechtenstein tracking a Swiss banker with financial ties to terrorists. While in Liechtenstein Shannon comes up against a brutal Russian Mafia group he previously encountered in an earlier book in the series.

Back in Mexico. in a scene familiar to western novels and films, a town is under siege by violent criminals and only the dedicated police chief has the fortitude to stand up against the superior firepower of the cartel gangsters. Thankfully, the police chief has the assistance of Crosswhite. The former Delta operator helps train and fights alongside the town’s small police force in the showdown with the cartel and Hancock.

Scott McEwen, the coauthor of “Ghost Sniper,” knows something about Navy SEALs. He coauthored “American Sniper” with the late, legendary Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, and he coauthored “Eyes on Target: Inside Stories from the Brotherhood of the U.S. Navy SEALs” with Richard Miniter. Mr. McEwen’s “Ghost Sniper” coauthor, Thomas Koloniar, is a retired police officer and the author of the post-apocalyptic novel “Cannibal Reign.”

My only objections to the book are that the CIA is portrayed as far too sinister and the CIA chief of station in Mexico, Mike Ortega, is called “Agent Ortega” repeatedly. Mariana Mederos is also referred to as a CIA agent. CIA intelligence officers who are U.S. citizens and agency employees are called “case officers,” not agents. Agents (or assets) are usually the foreign nationals that case officers recruit and pay to spy and perform other acts for the CIA.

That aside, this thriller is action-packed and suspenseful. “Ghost Sniper” is a good book to read on a long flight or by the beach and pool.

Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism.

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