wasn’t until I started reading Joel C. Rosenberg’s
books that I realized I had been using a cliché when I would
say that “anything can happen” when describing the
twists and turns a plot can take. That statement should be reserved
almost exclusively for Rosenberg’s novels, particularly DEAD
HEAT, his latest work. I will tell you without reservation that
anything can and does happen here, including a number of things for
which I was/am nowhere near ready.
If you have not read the author’s previous novels --- THE
LAST JIHAD, THE LAST DAYS, THE EZEKIEL OPTION and THE COPPER SCROLL
--- you may want to jump into those before picking up this current
one. Though Rosenberg does a good job of providing background on
the characters in DEAD HEAT (particularly Jon Bennett and Erin
McCoy) with respect to what has gone before, knowledge of the
backstory of this series will help newcomers more fully appreciate
the current book. However, it’s not necessary, especially
when an all-too-imaginable yet unthinkable cataclysmic disaster
befalls the United States within the first quarter of the
Bennett and McCoy, former presidential advisors doing missionary
work in Jordan, are far removed from the disaster, yet are facing
significant problems of their own. McCoy has suddenly fallen victim
to a mystery illness, while Bennett has received an anonymous
telephone call from someone who claims knowledge of what has
befallen the U.S., as well as the ability to prevent more disaster
from occurring. But there is a price, one that both Bennett and the
President are reluctant to pay.
The U.S. government, however, is on war footing, and while it races
to determine the source of the calamity before further damage can
be done, a second and most unexpected danger threatens from within.
Rosenberg saves the most shocking event of all for the book’s
conclusion, as the United States, in the midst of a retaliatory
strike, experiences an event unprecedented in world history.
Rosenberg’s novels have Biblical prophecies as their
foundation and are set in what are generally known as the
“end of days.” Whether or not you count yourself as a
believer, there is no denying that Rosenberg is a masterful
storyteller, one for whom absolutely nothing is off the table.
While some have found fault with the plot-driven elements of his
work, Rosenberg’s frenetic pacing elevates the events of his
narrative to a fever pitch, even as he ratchets things up another
notch or five. Full of surprises and shocks, DEAD HEAT is
unforgettable and unstoppable.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010