Three things are happening behind the scenes in this realistic modern day novel of suspense and foreign intrigue. The Russian President, Valeri Volodin, threatened with extinction because of his country’s precarious financial position and loss of power and stature in the world today, had devised a demonic plan of destruction to guarantee his country’s return to a position of strength, and in the event of failure, he had laid out a broad and creative plan to enable his escape, as one very rich man, to a place of refuge outside Russia. To this end, 1) he was repositioning his armed forces and weapons in Europe, weapons that have been improved that the rest of the world is not aware of, including new and more advanced nuclear submarines; 2) he was staging and engineering terrorist attacks in various cities around Europe, planting evidence that pointed away from Russian responsibility, and instead credited the havoc, death and destruction created on small splinter groups of discontented revolutionaries, in order to instill fear around the world; 3) he had people secretly transferring money stolen from his country, to the tune of billions, to secret accounts in his name, using bitcoins that could not be traced in case he was unsuccessful in accomplishing his master plan and needed to make a quick getaway. He threatened those refusing to help him with death and torture; he kidnapped families and held them hostage; he engaged assassins and willingly sacrificed innocent men and women, Russians and foreigners, to achieve his goals. He had engaged the help of brutal mercenaries from all over the world to stage the attacks, and it would seem that there was simply no end to the number of people willing to do anything for money.
From country to country, as terrorist attacks took place, President Jack Ryan and his advisors began to suspect that Russia was behind the turmoil being created because of the way it was being carried out. The attacks appeared to be engineered by groups who were using far more sophisticated methods than previously had been used, and the groups seemed far better trained than they were previously known to be. Someone was training these men in advanced methods of attack. Witnesses soon provide conflicting evidence to the contrary of what appeared originally on initial investigations, and it became obvious to some that mischief of a very dangerous nature was afoot and was probably birthed in the womb of Mother Russia.
The President of the United States was tasked with the job of convincing NATO to aid in the defense of the countries being attacked, but he was thwarted by excuses that reeked of politics, protocol and a decided lack of enthusiasm because the countries that needed to help were also countries that were dependent on their dealings with Russia. They didn’t want to jeopardize their fragile economies by interfering in what might not be as threatening a situation as the United States suspected it would become, that might simply be a false alarm or a wild goose chase. However, the United States advisors had surmised that the evil plan of destruction and sacrifice of human capital existed to propel Valeri Volodin into the spotlight, making him the hero of his country or the best escape artist, who would leave Russia behind with a sack of money if he failed. Jack Ryan was unable to convince his allies to assist him in moving troops around Europe to protect what he believed would soon be an invasion, by Russia, into independent nations that were formerly part of the USSR. He believed that Volodin was up to something so disruptive that it would destabilize the rest of the world and put fear in their hearts, giving the Russians greater power and position.
When a routine surveillance operation accidentally becomes involved in the Russian debacle, there is further evidence of Russian complicity. These surveillance teams were working for the Campus, a secret organization that protected the President. Jack Ryan is the son of the President. He worked with the Campus and had unwittingly become involved in an international act of war. As the President’s son, he was forbidden from being in such a high profile and dangerous position. He took unnecessary risks putting their work into jeopardy and subjected himself to severe consequences because of his actions. His current lady love was working with him, and although he tried to protect her, she had come to serious harm.
Russia’s weapons had been more highly developed than NATO or the US was aware and as the conflict escalated and fighting began, they discovered that their submarines, missiles and tanks were far more advanced than was previously known. Their brutality and Machiavellian behavior astonished the world, although given its past history, it was hard to believe that part of the plot. How could heads of countries have been that naïve, and would they really have been that unwilling to believe the threat presenting itself or that unwilling to engage in defensive actions?
Jack Ryan, the President’s son, did not play as prominent a role in this particular Jack Ryan novel. Rather, his position in life and the danger he placed others in by ignoring his importance, upstaged him. He was forced to return home as his presence was placing The Campus and the operation in greater danger. Other operatives assumed a more prominent role in this dangerous endeavor. Jack, however, chomped at the bit to get involved again, even if he had to disobey orders that would have serious consequences for him.
From start to finish, this novel of intrigue will grip the reader to the seat as this very plausible real-world scenario plays out. Will Russia succeed with the diabolical plans of its leader? Will America convince NATO to enter into the mysterious world of treachery that they believe Russia is now engaged in, or will the international community balk at any idea that might negatively influence their economic and political circumstances? Will Russia’s nuclear submarine continue to threaten the coast of the United States positioning itself outside of particular cities of interest like Washington DC? Who will outsmart whom in the end? Will it be a no win situation eventually bringing everyone down? It was not until the seeds of this evil plan had begun to grow that the world actually came late to the table, joining the United States to make a united effort to stop the forces of evil that threatened national security everywhere. When the book ended, one could not help wondering if this novel was prescient and would soon play out in one form or another in the not too distant future.
Scott Brick is an excellent narrator who uses authentic foreign accents and appropriate expression.