Brad Taylor is a veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces, serving for over two decades visiting places and doing things that qualify him as one of those rough men who stand ready in the night to visit storm and lightning on those who would harm us. Thus his books, which comprise the Pike Logan series, are shot through with descriptions of mission incidents that either most assuredly did happen or should have. THE WIDOW’S STRIKE is a bit of a change of pace, in the sense that it reads like a collaboration between Taylor and the late Michael Crichton, which serves to ratchet up the suspense to new, almost unbearable levels.
Pike is the owner of Grolier Recovery Services, which ostensibly smooths and clears things over for archaeological projects around the world but actually is a cover for an off-the-books counterterrorism unit known as the Taskforce. Pike and Jennifer Cahill, his partner in saving the nation and the world from itself, get pressed into service once again. After retrieving a member of their team from a foreign prison with some identity theft and misdirection, the Taskforce undertakes their most frightening mission yet.
"If you have an ounce of germophobia in your body, THE WIDOW’S STRIKE will keep you up at night, reading and worrying."
Remember what I said earlier about saving the world? That was not an exaggeration. A pharmaceutical company has been working on a vaccine in anticipation of the potential mutation of a next-generation virus. Although successfully producing the mutation but unable to develop a cure for it, the research is shut down after a tragic lab accident. Malik Musavi, a brigadier general in the Pasdaran (aka the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran), learns of the research and develops a plot to obtain the virus and direct it against the United States. Musavi is brilliant and dangerously deranged; the Taskforce is on to him almost immediately, but he remains a step or so ahead of it and Pike. That doesn’t mean that the Taskforce is hapless in any way. There is quite a bit of give-and-take, with the Taskforce thwarting Musavi here, Musavi pulling one over on the Taskforce there. All the while, Musavi’s plot, which is admittedly ingenious, advances slowly but inexorably toward success.
There are two terrific elements, outside of several mission-oriented vignettes sprinkled throughout the story, that make THE WIDOW’S STRIKE such a success. The first is all the gadgetry at the disposal of the Taskforce. It’s not quite on the order of excess that an American equivalent of Q would present to Pike, but there is enough of a “gee whiz” factor to make that GPS unit or drone that you bought online look just a little outmoded. The other is the virus itself, which is a nasty one with an extremely interesting delivery mode. If that is not enough for you, the ever-developing personal chemistry between Pike and Jennifer occasionally rears its head, just often enough to keep things interesting without it hijacking the book. Actually, that would be impossible, given the topic.
If you have an ounce of germophobia in your body, THE WIDOW’S STRIKE will keep you up at night, reading and worrying.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 9, 2013