A John Rain Thriller
I don't read a lot of political/military thrillers, so when The Detachment came up as a $1 USD Book of the Day on Amazon, I thought I'd give it a spin and try something new.
This book is the latest in a series about assassin John Rain, but I found there was enough information provided that I wasn't penalized for not having read the other books.
As the novel begins, John Rain is persuaded (and coerced) out of retirement to lead a team of specialists. Colonel Horton, a U.S. intelligence figure, is assembling a team of "outsiders" to assassinate traitors planning to launch a coup in the United States. The "detachment" comprises Rain, an almost legendary assassin with ninja training; Dox, Rain's friend and a master sniper; Treven, active U.S. military and nervous about working outside of channels; and Larison, the man who is supposedly dead, and who radiates danger and seems capable of anything. Horton controls the team with large cash payments... and blackmail.
To enjoy this novel, you either have to agree with the background of the novel, or be able to "suspend disbelief" while reading it. This is a political noir setting in which the U.S. is controlled by a oligarchy, political parties are meaningless, the War on Terror is being manipulated for corporate profits, and assassination is just another tool. (The author even provides links at the back of the book, for those who want to read more on the subject.)
The first part of the novel deals with the assassinations ordered by Horton, and the author does not glamorize the subject. The object is to get the target away from his security (if he has any), then kill him without attracting attention or leaving clues. The assassin's object is not a fair fight! I found this part of the novel so distasteful that I set it aside for a few weeks.
As you would expect in a thriller, the "rest" of the story is when everything fails to go to plan, the team is on the run with everyone gunning for them, and the action begins. There's everything from a kidnapping, to a missing drone, a U-Haul truck, supposed "Muslim terrorist" attacks on American institutions, a hot soccer mom, millions in diamonds, and a team on the verge of killing each other.
With a thriller of this type, I usually expect the prose to be workmanlike and efficient, but Barry Eisler is actually a talented writer whose prose is surprisingly good. He also makes a U.S. coup attempt plausible.
This is definitely not one for younger readers, due to the well-described violence.
For wargamers: The assassination situations would probably only work as solitaire scenarios, but the general plot could easily be adapted to a wargame campaign. To make it gameable, you would need to either make the baddies more capable, or lower the abilities of the team - in the novel, the conflicts are very one-sided.
Bottom line: This is an interesting story about the possibility of political turmoil in the U.S., if you can stomach the viewpoint and the assassinations.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .