Some of the comments I have read elsewhere regarding THE KILL LIST have been harsh. Fair enough. If you’re expecting that Frederick Forsyth has pulled another THE DAY OF THE JACKAL out of his hat, then you are going to be somewhat disappointed. And yes, the book does have a bit of a problem with pacing. A great deal of it is background information, so much so that at times the story almost gets lost. Still, though, this is a book that you will not regret reading, and the last hundred pages fulfill the promise of the first.
The pitch premise of THE KILL LIST could easily be “Tom vs. Jerry in the War on Terror.” In actuality, it is The Preacher vs. The Tracker. The Preacher is a Muslim terrorist whose Internet broadcasts are aimed squarely at Islamic converts in Western countries. A charismatic speaker with superior persuasive abilities, the Preacher urges his followers to strike randomly against the western “Satan” by choosing high-profile government targets at all levels --- state, local and federal --- and sacrificing themselves as martyrs. Achieving a great deal of success with this, the Preacher seems virtually unstoppable. His followers choose their own targets and the time and place of their attacks, making proactive response against them nearly impossible. The Preacher makes his broadcasts from an unknown location.
"More than mere entertainment, THE KILL LIST is worth reading as a tribute to those rough men who stand ready in the night while we sleep peacefully."
What he looks like is a mystery, and he is ultimately placed on the Kill List, a short list of those who are so dangerous to the United States that they have targeted them for elimination by fiat of the President and a very small and select group. The agency that is tasked with hunting down these individuals is the Technical Operations Support Activity, which is known by the boring acronym of TOSA. TOSA’s chief hunter is Christopher “Kit” Carson, an operative known as the Tracker. Carson is a third-generation Marine with multiple skill sets and a superior ability to think on his feet. Already eager to find and terminate the Preacher, Carson finds that his mission has become personal when one of the Preacher’s disciples makes Carson’s father a collateral target. The problem facing the Tracker, however, is how to find someone whose identity and location is so closely held that almost no one knows who or where he is. The answer, of course, is one step at a time.
Utilizing the seemingly unlimited might and majesty of the United States government, the Tracker follows the slimmest of leads from the mountains of Afghanistan to an attic near Washington, D.C., making use of a diverse range of unexpected allies to locate the Preacher and to bring him to a rough but appropriate justice. Even as the Tracker moves toward carrying out his mission, the Preacher continues his attacks by proxy against the West. Racing against time to save an innocent who has fallen into the Preacher’s hands, the Tracker pulls out all the stops in order to bring a hostage --- and himself --- back alive.
Forsyth places THE KILL LIST very much in the real world, which is a dangerous place indeed. Again, the proceedings may drag a bit, particularly in the middle third of the book, where things almost get bogged down in lengthy (though necessary) explanations. Nevertheless, Forsyth picks up the pace in due course, and by the final hundred pages, readers will find their hearts firmly lodged in their mouths. More than mere entertainment, THE KILL LIST is worth reading as a tribute to those rough men who stand ready in the night while we sleep peacefully.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 6, 2013