- - Tuesday, July 3, 2018

SPYMASTER

By Brad Thor

Atria/Emily Bestler Books, $27.99, 336 pages

You can be certain that a thriller is going to be a great read if it’s by Brad Thor. He has long been the best of the best in the genre and keeps getting better and better.

Without question, “Spymaster” is Brad Thor’s best novel ever. Scot Harvath, a former U.S. Navy Seal counter-terrorism operative with incredible skills and a phenomenal record of defeating enemy actions, faces his most momentous challenge ever.



He’s the key agent in a private, secretive sort of streamlined alternative CIA group created and headed by Reed Carlton, a legend in U.S. intelligence who came out of retirement to offset serious flaws in U.S. intelligence operations.

As a strong-minded president of the United States works to cleanse the CIA of deadwood and its bureaucratic ways, the Carlton Group functions as his lifeboat, discreetly carrying out ultra-sensitive national security actions he thinks the CIA remains incapable of getting right.

Scot Harvath has become one of the deadliest and most effective weapons in America’s arsenal. Given a wide leash and broad discretion by the president, he eschews going by the book, preferring far more deadly and effective black ops strategies and operations, all the while providing the president and his team plausible deniability.

He will need all his skills — and his country will need him more than ever before — when the president tasks him with a mission whose outcome will determine if America will be forced to choose between either betraying allies or World War III.

Until now, Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath series has been centered on the threat from radical Islamic terrorism. Most who have read one of more of these thrillers likely came away with a better grasp of that threat than they’ve gotten from general media coverage — and the same is sure to be equally true about the far more dangerous threat “Spymaster” deals with. His books are always highly entertaining and they’re also always extraordinarily well researched and informative.

With “Spymaster,” Brad Thor once again demonstrates an eerie ability to make you feel you might well be glimpsing at news from the future. Note this passage which will give you a good feel for why this thriller is so timely without giving away its incredibly smart and highly plausible plot:

“But while the September 11 attacks had demonstrated the asymmetric threat of Islamic terrorism, another threat — one far greater and far more powerful — was looming on the horizon. As it had done in Crimea, Russia planned to take back all of its former territory. It was going to continue with the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. There was only one thing standing in Russia’s way — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But ever the tacticians, Moscow had already formulated a plan to break NATO.”

So clever is the Russian plan and so great the danger of its succeeding that it makes “Spymaster” the most gripping thriller yet by this author whose works are always gripping.

The cunning Russian plan to break NATO that Brad Thor creates in “Spymaster” is both brilliant and ominously plausible. He skillfully weaves in facts and evidence from the lessons of recent history that strongly suggest it would work, giving Russia a rousing victory and America a mortifying defeat.

True to old Soviet and current Russian ways, their plan fomenting chaos across Europe is carried out by proxy by a Russian-front secret group whose whereabouts and objectives are superbly concealed. These must first be discovered if there is to be any hope for effective countermeasures.

Overcoming enormous obstacles may be what Scot Harvath specializes in, but this time around he must also cope with new complications. He’s well into his 40s and age and all the awful blows to his body over the years have taken their toll. His brilliant boss and mentor, Reed Carlton, who wanted him to leave field work and be his replacement, is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.

Scot Harvath feels that at least for now he must both personally run field operations and help direct overall operations, assisting the new director that he, Reed Carlton and the president picked. Compounding these new complications is that intelligence crucial to the mission is being withheld by an ally unless a demand is met which would seriously undermine U.S. intelligence.

“Spymaster” has everything we’ve come to expect in a Brad Thor thriller. The action is fast-paced. Surprises abound. It’s exciting — pulse-pounding. And it’s plausible, this time frighteningly so. The suspense keeps you on edge anxious to discover what’s next and how it all will end.

Even the ending is Brad Thor’s best ever. It utterly stunned this fan who has read every one of his books. Don’t cheat and peek or you’ll wish you hadn’t.

“Spymaster” is a fantastic read — one of the all-time best thriller novels.

• Fred J. Eckert, a former Republican congressman from New York, was U.S. ambassador to Fiji and to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture under President Ronald Reagan.

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