Full Black: A Thriller by Brad Thor (Pocket Books, $15.00, 379 pages)
If Barry Goldwater were alive today, he might well identify Brad Thor as his favorite author. For it was Goldwater who said, “Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Thor’s action-thriller protagonist, Scott Harvath, lives by these words; Harvath’s a former Navy Seal Team 6 member who’s now a covert counterterrorism operative for a CIA contractor. Harvath does not wear kid gloves to work. He often goes “full black” – meaning that his undercover missions officially do not exist. He not only hunts down and kills terrorists, he maims and tortures them to get the information he needs, and may kill them after promising to spare their lives.
There are no shades of grey in agent Harvath’s world and there’s more than a touch of paranoia:
“The only way to disrupt the enemy, and beat them so far back that they couldn’t attack, was to relentlessly hunt them down like the animals they were and unceasingly take the fight to them. That meant the gloves were off. It also meant that certain operations had to be kept secret from grandstanding politicians…”
As Full Black opens, there’s been a deadly home invasion – seemingly involving former Russian secret policemen – at the residence of a Hollywood documentary producer. This does not seem like a major development but interest on the part of the media builds when the producer suddenly disappears. And the company that Harvarth works for sees this as the signal preceding a major terrorist attack – the largest since 9/11 – financed by a billionaire who hates the U.S.
“If we began hanging traitors, we’d lose a good many of our politicians, business and union leaders…”
Harvath is sent to Los Angeles to begin unraveling the mystery of the home invasion which he views as beyond the capabilities of the LAPD to solve. He’s got several resources on his side, including a computer genius and a highly-experienced mentor, but it’s hard to separate the good guys from the bad in Harvath’s world. For Harvath, paranoia equals a very principled loyalty to the U.S., and he believes that the means are always justified by the end.
“…at some point in the last seventy-or-so years, the political class had become completely disconnected from reality…”
On its face, this may sound like Kill Shot by Vince Flynn and Red Cell by Mark Henshaw, but unlike those espionage thrillers, Full Black does not start out in overdrive. Thor takes his time building interest in the story, making sure the reader’s fully invested in the tale before building speed. Once Thor shifts into second, third, four, and fifth gear, you’ll see why his books are found in bookstores, airports and your local grocery store. His writing style might occasionally be over the top, but as Mitt Romney might say, “You can’t argue with success.”
The end of Full Black is actually the beginning of Thor’s next thriller. Get ready to put that one on your nightstand.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Black List: A Thriller by Brad Thor will be released by Atria Books on July 24, 2012.