HARD TARGET, Alan Jacobson’s latest offering, is a wild ride from start to finish. While not exactly part of his bestselling Karen Vail series, it most certainly takes place in Vail’s world, and indeed she has a featured role in the book. However, primary protagonist honors go to FBI Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Uziel (that’s “Uzi” to you) and Hector DeSantos, a covert operative with the Department of Defense. If DeSantos’ name rings a bell with longtime Jacobson fans, it should: DeSantos was introduced in THE HUNTED and appeared with Vail in VELOCITY. But despite the familiarity of some of the characters, HARD TARGET is not quite like anything you have read before.
"HARD TARGET is one thriller that you absolutely should not miss, a work that is as current and frightening as tomorrow morning’s headlines."
The book begins with a bang --- literally --- as on the night of the presidential election, the current vice-president, who has just earned the title of President-elect, is targeted for assassination. A horrific mid-air helicopter collision does the job. Readers know this before the boots on the ground do, but Jacobson gives us just enough information to tug us along through a complex but well-defined storyline. What is clear is that this attempt to disrupt not only the election but also the institution of the United States government at its highest level is not the action of a lone assassin or a small group.
As further acts --- covert and otherwise --- ensure, DeSantos and Uzi slowly follow a trail with twists and turns that ultimately lead them to the source of the actions, a source so unexpected that they almost doubt themselves. What makes things worse is that Uzi is hiding a dark secret that might not only jeopardize their mission but also may be related to the very enemy they are hunting. Along the way, Jacobson keeps lobbing live hand grenades at us, keeping things moving, twisting and turning. By the end, we are left wondering not only about the book’s world, but about the real world as well.
Jacobson’s novels are known for the incredible amount of research that he pours into them, and HARD TARGET is no exception. As a result, Jacobson gives an in-the-room, over-the-shoulder viewpoint to each and every scene and detail that occurs in the book, which in turn quietly ratchets up the adrenalin level sentence by sentence, page by page. If you want thorough, Jacobson is your man. He lists around 26 different real-world sources for the derring-do and goings-on that occur here. Yet, the narrative never feels burdened or over-laden with details. Instead, the facts and minutiae that propel the novel make it even more suspenseful and interesting. It is one of those books that readers actually feel smarter for having read but without sacrificing entertainment value. And while it very much stands on its own, one gets the feeling that the events will ultimately figure prominently in Jacobson’s next book.
HARD TARGET is one thriller that you absolutely should not miss, a work that is as current and frightening as tomorrow morning’s headlines.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 28, 2012