Top critical review
Hokey action, trite dialogue
Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2018
"For reasons of national security, certain names, places, and tactical procedures have been changed within this novel."
We're off to a bad start, Brad. It's a novel. What (fictional) names need to be changed? What "tactical procedures" need to be changed? There may be no cavernous, built-out place in the side of a mountain with a church on top as the entry point in Switzerland where the Swiss store their war-like stuff, but again: it's a novel.
The book opens with a prologue. Tsk. I'm not against prologues in general, but when I am, it's because of prologues like this one, where the bad guys lay out their dastardly plans so we'll absolutely know the hero, Scot Horvath, is not involved. We also get a monologue from one, just so we know how bad he is and get the supposed motivation for this entire thing. Oh, don't worry - if you have trouble remembering any of it, you'll get told again at the end, when one character explains to Horvath the motivation of the bad guys.
On a side note, if there is one phrase I wish writers would lose, forever, it has to be "As you know..." If they know, why are you telling them? That's rhetorical, of course, because I know why: you have to info dump on the reader instead of organically introducing the information like a better writer would.
The first chapter takes us to Utah, where the president of the US (hereafter as POTUS) is on a skiing vacation with his daughter. Horvath, former SEAL turned Secret Service, is the lead on the protection, and he is with the daughter. When it's time to return to the cabin, POTUS and his cover detail go one way and the daughter and Horvath's detail go another.
Horvath sees a couple of agents run into trees and fall down, and jokes with the others in his detail they were lucky to be going down the easier run. Then, there's an avalanche. Of course.
Horvath picks up the daughter and tries to ski both of them to protection behind some boulders, but oh no! He's off target. Then he wraps his body around hers as the avalanche catches up and they bounce down the hill, eventually reaching the area he was aiming for, and there they are, as the avalanche rushes past them and eventually stops. Then Superman - I mean, Horvath, proceeds to dig them out, take off much of his own clothing to put on the daughter, and starts trekking down the mountain until they are found by members of the detail that were stationed in the cabin.
OK, that's all fine. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief on that. On the other side of the coin, the supposedly super smart, I'd-die-for-POTUS Secret Service detail has thought nothing of the radios and sensors popping in and out all day long - until they can't raise the detail covering POTUS.
This is not a spoiler, because it's in the synopsis of the book: Thor helpfully tells us that the bad guys have been lying around in the snow, waiting for POTUS, and tells us exactly how they snatch him off the mountain, first using some super gadget thing that blasts the agents so they are disoriented. So, to keep in mind: the agents think the woods and snow are responsible for the total lack of communications, and we're supposed to believe that the bad guys managed to a) camp out in the heavy snow waiting for POTUS, when the Secret Service and any other law enforcement have cleared the area and are patrolling, who b) amazingly, skis right into the area the bad guys are waiting. What a happy coincidence! As is the angry Muslim one of the bad guys shoots and leaves behind, because as we know, only brown people commit terrorism.
Much of the book is tedious and aggravating. There's the bad guys driving a semi - in heavy, wet snow, on a mountain - to a cabin where they kill a couple of old people and then take off in the ambulance that was hauled up in that trailer, POTUS in the back.
Horvath appears to be the only one with a brain amongst the agencies, because he is seeing things that are obvious clues and no one else seems to notice a thing, ever. But of course, they don't listen to him, because it was his detail that was killed, allowing POTUS to be taken.
Now we go into SPOILERS:
Naturally, Horvath has to stomp all over the various crime scenes, and just as naturally, things start popping up that point to him as the ringleader of it all. It's ludicrous, and even the people who know him best, and have worked with him longest, are ready to believe he's turned into a sociopath and torpedoed his own protection detail. He also appears to lose his super detector ring, because he does some terribly stupid things - or continues to, since any rational agent would work with the teams to determine what happened, not go lone wolf agent right off the bat. I could buy that act once the frame against him really builds up, but not at the very start of the investigation.
By the way, the daughter? Once former SEAL Horvath disobeys (of course) doctor's orders and starts doing his own investigation instead of letting the various agencies do their jobs, the daughter isn't mentioned again until toward the end of the book.
There's a (beautiful, of course) Swiss female agent trying to track down a shipment of stolen weapons, and we just know their paths are going to cross, because the guy she really wants to question is the same bad guy who engineered the kidnapping. What a coincidence!
The usual countersurveillance maneuvers are detailed, along with a ton of other, unnecessary stuff. There's a big speech about a wine, there's the closeted, but powerful Senator with a secret lover, who - in yet another subplot - cozied himself up to the Senator because his previous boyfriend was the Senator's previous boyfriend as well, and the boyfriend was killed in a driveby shooting with another man. The secret lover just happens to be listening in on a phone call that cements what an evil jackhole the Senator is. What a coincidence!
Horvath's friend needs to see him, and she brings along the secret lover, who spills his guts to Horvath, and we all know what that means. Yep, taken out, shot execution style with former SEAL Horvath's own weapon, which he is unable to find in the mess of his apartment that has obviously been tossed by the bad guys. What a coincidence!
There's another thing that irritates me to no end: the confirmation confirmation confirmation dialogue. it goes like this:
Person A: This looks like ABC because XYZ.
Person B: You mean XYZ???? By ABC?
Person A: Exactly. It's ABC doing XYZ.
Yeah, we get it already. We don't need to be told the same piece of information three times just because you're trying to help us recall who the bad guys are and what they're into. It's even worse when the same character does it all alone.
Speaking of dialogue: it was terrible. A bunch of macho posturing, and far too much witty banter (or attempts at it, anyhow). It simply was not good. Trite phrases, simple, declarative sentences - I'd say probably written at a junior high level.
Former SEAL Horvath gets beaten up, shot, runs on no sleep, etc. - all the things you associate with an invincible hero. Did I mention he's a former SEAL?
He teams up with the Swiss agent after a mountainside attempted assassination of himself and possibly her, only to go right back to the town he was staying in. Great thinking, former SEAL Horvath, they'll never find you there, until they do.
The rest is a mash of hokey action: when Horvath is about to be killed on a riverbank, the Swiss agent kills the bad guy. When they're in the cavern in the mountain, a bad guy has his gun on Horvath, but of course has to give a little speech first, allowing the Swiss agent to save him again. They find the stolen weapons in the mountain, and another bad guy is about to shoot former SEAL Horvath when the cavalry arrives just in time to blow the bad guy's head off. Wow! Such action! Many coincidence!
It could have been a good story. But it isn't, and I'm not convinced that some oil billionaire would be able to conspire with two Senators, the Vice President, and the head of an intelligence agency to kidnap POTUS. That's simply too many fingers in the pie. Good thing the Senators and the VP end up dead to let us know some kind of justice is done for them. Former SEAL and current Secret Service agent Horvath then gets to relive his SEAL days by meting out more justice on the oil billionaire.
The descriptions of some places is interesting, but either Thor was being paid by the word, or someone said, you know what this needs? Ponderous description down to the teeniest detail. the reader will love it! No, they do not. At least this reader didn't.
Two stars: my automatic one star for writing the thing. The other for some kind of semblance of a plot, even if it relied on way too many coincidences and there was zero mystery to the reader in any of it. Did I mention the hero is a former SEAL?
Recommended when there's nothing else to read, or when you need something that doesn't take a ton of concentration.