- - Thursday, March 1, 2018

THE TERMINAL LIST

By Jack Carr

Atria/Emily Bestler Books, $26, 416 pages



“The Terminal List,” written by a former Navy SEAL and his friend under the pseudonym Jack Carr, is mesmerizing. Brad Thor says it is “absolutely awesome! So powerful, so pulse-pounding, so well-written.”

He’s right. Any fan of the novels by Brad Thor and the late Vince Flynn will realize that Jack Carr will soon be joining their ranks. “The Terminal List” is sure to be the best debut thriller of 2018.

Lt. Cmdr. James Reece is leading his team of SEALS on a mission to take out an enemy target in Khost Province, Afghanistan. He’s very uneasy about the undertaking. So is every man with him. That everything had all gone so easy is what makes the battle-hardened SEALS uneasy.

And why such pressure from higher up authority to attack this target? A far-from-the-battle-zone flag-level command had usurped the tactical planning process. Why?

He keys his radio and gives the order to move forward. Suddenly a devastating explosion erupts, tearing the helmet from his head as its brutal force hurls him 10 yards. “They knew,” he realizes. An ambush. Soon he will realize that the hell and fury that had so suddenly, so destructively hit his SEAL team had killed all but four of his force.

Two survivors guide in an airstrike to pound the enemy position, followed by helicopters carrying the Army Rangers tasked to evacuate the wounded and the dead.

Next thing James Reece remembers is coming to in a military hospital. His most seasoned troop chief, Boozer, tells him they are now the only survivors, that the enemy had baited the Americans, wiring the landing area, igniting a massive explosion that killed all the Rangers and the two SEALS who guided them in. Sixty-eight of America’s finest warriors massacred.

Although this tragic mission had been forced upon him from far-away and on-high, and although even the tactics to be followed had been dictated to him, two agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Services are at the hospital waiting to interrogate him — and it’s quickly obvious to him and Boozer that the goal is to make Lt. Cmdr. Reece the scapegoat for this unmitigated disaster.

“Your men trusted you, Reece,” he thinks to himself, “And now they are dead. Focus. Something is not right. Something is just not right.”

Just how wrong are things? Consider the absurd interrogation to which James Reece is subjected by the two NCIS agents. Totally ignoring the obvious oddities surrounding the defective intelligence his SEAL team had been forced to rely upon, they instead confront the lieutenant commander with old emails of his with renowned experts in insurgencies and international relations at Naval Postgraduate School and Johns Hopkins.

Taken out of context and twisted to distort, incredibly, these emails become the basis for putting the long-serving SEAL officially under investigation for subversive activities, disclosure of sensitive information and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Think you detect a conspiracy that might extend wide and reach the highest levels of the U.S. government? So does James Reece.

Finally back home, about to surprise his wife and little girl, he’s confronted first with Boozer’s death, supposedly by his own hand, then next the brutal murder of his pregnant wife and daughter, supposedly the whim of some gang committing a senseless random crime.

No longer is he thinking he’s up against a sinister conspiracy — he’s certain. He pieces together that he and his SEAL team were betrayed by U.S. government officials whose sworn duty is to defend America’s defenders. With keen intelligence and remarkable resourcefulness, he builds his list of conspirators.

They’ve taken everything from him and they’re trying to kill him. So he sets out to terminate everyone on his list, including the likely next president of the United States. Any red-blooded American will relish reading how he goes about it, racing against time because a renowned doctor told him he is dying from an unusual brain tumor that he has only seen in some other members of the same SEAL group.

This incredible first novel by a former 20-year SEAL who signed on as an enlisted man and rose to lieutenant commander with tactical battlefield leadership responsibilities in Iraq and Afghanistan is truly masterful. Extraordinarily well-written, it radiates authenticity. Never cliche-ish. Never over-the-top. Grabs you from the start and never lets go. The action is explosive. And the suspense will blindside you.

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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