Harold Coyle's Strategic Solutions Inc.
378 pages. Authors' Note.
This type of book is sometimes classified as "revenge fantasy," as it's about Western forces striking back at Al-Quaida terrorists. However, this book avoids the cliche of the Western supermen against the inferior jihadists – while the protagonists are well trained, the terrorists in this novel get their punches in too.
The background is that Strategic Solutions Inc. is a private security contractor handling messy jobs for the U.S. government. Mike Derringer, founder of SSI, is a retired rear admiral with many useful political and military connections. He hires the best men and women he can get – ex-special forces, pilots, people with unique and special skills.
As the novel begins, a young American returning from Pakistan comes down sick at an airport in the U.K. Fortunately, his illness is detected and he's isolated in time – he's carrying the highly infectious Marburg virus. He dies a horrifying death in quarantine.
The world is faced with the possibility that Al-Qaida is infecting victims with Marburg virus and sending them on flights into the Western world. Someone has to go into Pakistan, investigate, and stop them before they succeed in launching a global epidemic. SSI gets the call – they're available, they're expendable, they're deniable.
The book has a large cast of characters, telling the story from the perspective of the SSI team in Pakistan, the Al-Qaida terrorists, and SSI corporate back in the U.S. The authors have given us characters with a variety of motivations, from gung-ho soldiers to apolitical mercenaries to a mountain-climbing British medical expert. Even the terrorists are shown as more than cardboard stereotypes.
As you might expect with Harold Coyle as one of the authors, the novel provides plenty of tactical situations that could easily be turned into scenarios. He also depicts the capriciousness of war by including no-win situations and deaths on both sides.
(The book's cover art – two missiles? – seems to have nothing to do with this novel.)
A good book. Entertaining, thoughtful, not mindless 'blow the bad guys up' fiction. It's the first book in a trilogy, so the large cast of characters probably return in later novels.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .