In­sight­ful thriller that mir­rors cur­rent ten­sions

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL - By Fred J. Eck­ert Fred J. Eck­ert, a for­mer Repub­li­can con­gress­man from New York who served as U.S am­bas­sador to Fiji and the U.N. Agen­cies for Food and Agri­cul­ture, is a nov­el­ist.

USE OF FORCE By Brad Thor Atria/Emily Bestler Books, $27.99, 368 pages

No one writes a bet­ter thriller than Brad Thor — and “Use of Force,” re­leased this week, will be viewed by many as his very best. His works — 16 best-sellers over the past 15 years — are known for their fast-paced ac­tion and un­usu­ally clever twists and turns of riv­et­ing sus­pense that keep you on edge, anx­iously rac­ing through the pages won­der­ing what could pos­si­bly come next and where it’s all go­ing to lead.

An ex­cit­ing and en­ter­tain­ing yet thought-pro­vok­ing thriller, “Use Of Force” packs a par­tic­u­larly pow­er­ful punch not only be­cause the ac­tion scenes are so re­al­is­ti­cally nerver­ack­ing, but even more so be­cause its plot — highly plau­si­ble and chill­ingly real and alarm­ing — seems snatched from be­hind the scenes of cur­rent — or per­haps near fu­ture — world events.

This may be a work of fic­tion but the world Brad Thor fo­cuses on hap­pens to be the real world in which we now find our­selves: As tech­nol­ogy boomed, life be­came eas­ier. As life be­came eas­ier, Amer­i­cans grew softer. As Amer­i­cans grew softer, the threats ar­rayed against the United States grew more deadly. Weak­ness en­cour­aged ag­gres­sion.

The ag­gres­sors are rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ists. The fun­da­men­tal­ism that drives them is a cancer. It in­fects al­most ev­ery­one it touches. And yet, the peo­ple best po­si­tioned to re­move the cancer lack the courage and the de­sire to do so. No mat­ter how many atroc­i­ties were com­mit­ted in the name of their re­li­gion and their God, the Mus­lim world seems wholly in­ca­pable of com­bat­ing the prob­lem.

As “Use of Force” opens, the pres­i­dent and the CIA know it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore there will be hor­rific at­tacks by ISIS here in Amer­ica and among our Euro­pean al­lies. They view Amer­ica as dither­ing and doz­ing dur­ing dan­ger­ous times and the Euro­peans as even less ready to re­spond.

They can see what’s com­ing if Amer­ica doesn’t con­front its en­e­mies far more se­ri­ously: Like Is­raelis, Amer­i­cans would find them­selves in a state of con­stant siege. Beaches, restau­rants, trains, buses, night clubs, gro­cery stores, schools, play­grounds, dog parks, movie the­aters, sport­ing events, pa­rades, shop­ping malls, even the places where they wor­shipped, noth­ing would be off-lim­its.

And so once again they turn to for­mer U.S. Navy Seal Scot Har­vath, the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal secret weapon in the highly un­con­ven­tional war he knows he must wage to counter and ul­ti­mately de­feat the ter­ror­ists who threaten Amer­ica. While Horvath works with the pres­i­dent and is di­rectly in­volved with the CIA, he does so through a pri­vate and highly se­cre­tive in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tion headed by an icon of U.S. in­tel­li­gence, a setup de­signed to en­able the pres­i­dent and the top lead­er­ship of the CIA to have plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity.

Har­vath has a solid track record of be­ing in­cred­i­bly re­source­ful and ef­fec­tive. He ter­ror­izes the ter­ror­ists. He’s given wide-rang­ing dis­cre­tion. The ex­traor­di­nar­ily tough be­yond-top-secret ac­tions he and oth­ers work­ing at his di­rec­tion in­sti­gate against the ter­ror­ists of­ten stretch or ex­ceed the boundaries of what is legally per­mit­ted.

What he’s en­gaged in is called black ops for good rea­son — knowl­edge of it should never see the light of day. If ex­posed his ac­tions might well en­able the loud vo­cal mi­nor­ity who’d rather opt for killing the en­emy with kind­ness to suc­ceed in po­lit­i­cally de­stroy­ing the pres­i­dent.

The dreaded time has come: ISIS has put in place evil plots to in­flict cat­a­strophic atroc­i­ties upon the United States and its Euro­pean al­lies. All the in­ter­cepted chat­ter in­di­cates so. Scot Har­vath and ev­ery­one aligned with him race against time and uncer­tainty to con­nect each of the dots, which, taken to­gether, might re­veal ex­actly what evil ISIS has set in mo­tion and try to fig­ure out ways to pos­si­bly thwart im­pend­ing dis­as­ter.

So many dif­fi­cult dots to con­nect, so lit­tle time to do so, so much at stake. A well-plot­ted, nail-bit­ing, whiteknuck­led ride takes read­ers to the Mediter­ranean Sea, the Ne­vada desert, Spain, France, Libya, Italy and the Vat­i­can as we en­counter a cast of scum of the Earth types af­fil­i­ated with ISIS, the Mafia and the U.S. gov­ern­ment and meet he­roes who take them on against all odds.

Char­ac­ter­is­tic of Brad Thor, this is an ex­ceed­ingly well re­searched work. He un­der­stands the coun­tries; he un­der­stands the gov­ern­ments; he un­der­stands the weaponry; he un­der­stands his­tory; he un­der­stands rad­i­cal Is­lam; and his grasp of the strug­gle in which Amer­ica finds it­self at this point in our his­tory far ex­ceeds that of most peo­ple charged with a lead­er­ship role in this fight and even more so dwarfs that of nearly ev­ery­one re­port­ing about it.

Read “Use of Force” for great en­ter­tain­ment. But also lis­ten care­fully to the alarm the author is sound­ing for our coun­try.

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