Review

The Disciple

by Stephen Coonts

Stephen Coonts seems to have a crystal ball on his desk that
provides him with the material for whatever subject he chooses to
visit in his most recent novel. Of course, Coonts is not a fortune
teller; he is simply possessed of the ability to believe that which
he sees in front of him, analyze it and extrapolate. Indeed, it is
in much the same manner that his long-running Jake Grafton
character functions. Call it an informed guess, but the result is
edge-of-the-seat, page-turning reality presented as fiction.

THE DISCIPLE, Coonts’s latest novel, brings together
Grafton and his protégé, Tommy Carmellini, once again for
an excursion into the heart of the darkness of the Middle East.
Carmellini, a retired jewel thief turned reluctant CIA operative,
has a skill set that serves him well in whatever situation Grafton
throws him into, which has never been truer than in THE DISCIPLE.
Beginning just after the bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor (which
was never acknowledged as having existed to begin with), Grafton, a
former Navy admiral now with the CIA, finds himself facing the
prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Despite the denials of Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is obvious that the Iranian
nuclear weapons program exists; the question is what will be done
with it.

Grafton inserts Carmellini into Tehran for some clandestine
boots-on-ground intelligence, and watching the two men work from
opposite ends of a very long, sharp and dangerous stick is worth
the price of admission to THE DISCIPLE all by itself. Carmellini,
masquerading as a passport approval clerk at a foreign embassy,
slowly but surely insinuates himself into the Iranian political
resistance movement, a nerve-wracking proposition in and of itself
given the violently repressive attitude of the government. It is
through his association with the resistance movement that
Carmellini is able to gain information about Iran’s ultimate
plan for its nuclear weapons and to transfer the intelligence to
Grafton.

What they ultimately discover is that Ahmadinejad plans to
martyr Iran and then lead the fundamentalist Muslim world into the
ultimate holy war against Israel and the United States. The
President, notwithstanding the evidence in front of him, refuses
proactive action against Iran, leaving it to Grafton and Carmellini
to work within the parameters that are outlined for them. The
result is heart-stopping: Iran begins a countdown to Armageddon,
while the United States is forced to play catch-up from a reactive
position as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

THE DISCIPLE is stuffed to bursting with Coonts’s
trademark technology updates, consisting of a cornucopia of items
that provide Exhibits A through Z to the proposition that peace is
ultimately won through superior firepower. Coonts does not get
bogged down in a technical description of the nuts and bolts of
which does what and to whom, instead focusing very closely and
graphically on cause and effect. He also takes pains, through
character development, to examine the social and religious
complexities that exist within Iran, which is slowly tearing itself
apart from within. An exciting work on a number of levels, THE
DISCIPLE will be a winner for fans of military and espionage novels
alike.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010

The Disciple
by Stephen Coonts

  • Publication Date: December 8, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 0312372833
  • ISBN-13: 9780312372835