In this 21st novel in the wildly popular Scot Harvath thriller series — each a New York Times best-seller, as “Black Ice” surely will be — Brad Thor takes the reader to a part of the world few would imagine as a location for espionage intrigue entangling the world’s three major powers — the frozen depths of the remote Arctic circle region.
Before you dismiss as implausible the thought that America could face any serious threat from artic land ambitions of China and Russia and that the outcome of the major powers clashing over it could be a radical shift in the international balance of power, bear in mind that Brad Thor is known for his uncanny ability to predict the future. It’s a safe bet to say that in Black Ice, he continues his impressive track record of plucking his stories from tomorrow’s headlines.
Why are China and Russia suddenly closely allied in targeting the Arctic? What could possibly be buried deep under the snow and ice that now garners so much attention from them? Will America’s North Atlantic defense system be put at risk? It is a thrilling adventure when it falls to Scot Harvath to find out and thwart any threat to America.
In “Black Ice,” Brad Thor focuses on the threat posed by the great increase in China’s power and its chase to become the dominant global superpower. Readers of his early novels focusing on Radical Islamic terrorism and his more recent novels focusing on Vladimir Putin’s scheming to undermine NATO and advance Russian imperialism likely came away with a better grasp of these threats to America from Brad Thor’s novels than they got from the mainstream media.
Many thriller novels have implausible plots that can disillusion the reader and pull them out of the story. Still, Brad Thor’s skill in grounding his plots in real-world events, coupled with his meticulous research and eye for detail, always brings his story alive. Black Ice is elevated and driven by well-researched references to Russian expansion ambition and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative scheme for becoming the dominant global power — and even to the effect of climate on next generational warfare.
After the trauma and pain of Backlash and New Dark, Scot Harvath has been kicking his feet up in Oslo, Norway, with his new love interest, the beautiful, super-smart Norwegian espionage operative, Sølvi Kolstad. It is Scot Harvath, as we have never seen him before, a happily retired espionage operative. In what seems to be a summer too good to be true, we see what his life would be like if he were to retire, a major theme of the novel.
But one day, he spots a familiar face in an Oslo crowd, an enemy agent he had long ago and far away killed and even confirmed dead! What is he doing here? Or even alive? A ghost? Something more sinister to blame?
His perfect summer evaporates as he finds himself in hot water with the Norwegian police. While investigating the ghost from his past, he intercedes in a mugging being committed by an immigrant. Suddenly, he finds himself the target of a leftist politician looking to deport him for his aggressive actions. Now he must protect his present – and future – with Sølvi, while investigating his ghost.
Things get even more complicated as the deal saving him from being deported thrusts him into being tasked with solving the real reason for the Chinese and Russian interest in the region, which in turn leads to his being tasked to thwarting a Chinese-Russian Arctic power grab that takes him deep inside the Arctic circle.
Scot Harvath is no ordinary espionage operative. He’s the President’s secret weapon, the counter-intelligence operative to turn to when extraordinary, possibly unsanctioned, measures may be called for in battling bad actors, working for a super secretive private operation that parallels the CIA, working with, but not officially for, it and the President to ensure deniability.
Realizing he cannot handle this Chinese-Russian menace alone, he recalls his team to Norway, and fans will be happy to be reacquainted with a favorite or two. It leads to a thrilling race against time, a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat adventure with an epic climax.
With “Black Ice,” Brad Thor again shows why he has long been dubbed “The King of Thrillers.” A few years ago, a reviewer proclaimed that “No one writes a better thriller than Brad Thor.”
Today it would be more accurate to say that the only one who writes a better thriller than Brad Thor is Brad Thor. Each of his past few novels has been better than the one before – and with “Black Ice” once again, Brad Thor has outshined himself.
• Zachary D. Warner is a writer based in Raleigh, NC, specializing in political commentary and book reviews.
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By Brad Thor
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, $28.99, 336 pages