EARLY WARNING, Michael Walsh’s new novel, is one of those
works that threatens to burst out of its binding by force of
personality. Though packaged as a thriller, it’s much more
than that. As the title implies, it’s a cautionary tale for
our times, with Walsh filling the role of a Paul Revere bringing
word of a clear and present danger to the Republic from both
without and within.
The book begins closely after the events of HOSTILE INTENT and
features the return of a number of characters from the latter, most
notably the man known as Devlin. Operating in the darkest recesses
of the United States government, Devlin is the secret weapon of the
National Security Agency (NSA), a tool that does not exist for an
agency that does not exist. Answering only --- and if at all --- to
his immediate superior and to the President of the United States,
he is trained to operate quietly and without fanfare. In other
words, he interjects himself into a hot situation, terminates the
threat, and disappears. Think about the gentlemen in New Orleans
who were shooting at relief planes in the aftermath of Katrina and
disappeared overnight. Devlin makes problems disappear.
But EARLY WARNING is not all about Devlin. In fact, you might
read portions of the novel and suddenly wonder where Devlin went.
Remember what I said about the book bursting out of its binding?
Walsh populates the narrative with enough interesting characters to
provide the raison d’etre for at least two
additional series. One of these characters would be NYPD Captain
Francis Byrne, a cop’s cop who has had all of the politically
correct buena sierra bred right out of him. Byrne’s
motto is “first through the door,” a trait he
demonstrates time and again here when a team of terrorists attack
Times Square and lay waste to it within a period of a few minutes.
The President officially places the NYPD in charge of dealing with
the problem, but sends in an equalizer: Devlin, who systematically
hunts down the terrorists and sends each one in turn to his final
and just reward.
Devlin is aware, though, that his own luck can run out at any
time, even as Maryam, his Iranian counterpart and love interest,
hunts down Emanuel Skorzeny, the enigmatic billionaire who is the
hand behind the hand responsible for the devastating terrorist
attack on Times Square. Last seen in HOSTILE INTENT, Skorzeny has
learned nothing from the largesse shown to him by the President,
and will be satisfied with nothing less than the destruction of the
United States and Devlin. EARLY WARNING jumps, skips and hops from
Budapest to Washington to New York and back again at breakneck
speed, with a host of lives, innocent and otherwise, in the
Again, though, EARLY WARNING is more than a thriller. Walsh
accords equal attention to the “cause” of what occurs
as well as to the effect. Quotations abound from such diverse
figures as Marcus Aurelius and Vladimir Lenin, both of whom have
proven to be remarkably and unfortunately prescient. The silent
message that permeates the space between the lines of text is that
Devlin is not going to be coming around to save our bacon; we need
to do it ourselves, before affairs reach the state that require a
Devlin in our lives for rescue.
Yes, EARLY WARNING is a thriller. It is also politically
incorrect and as impolite and necessary as a wake-up fist in your
face. You need this book more than any other I could name at the
moment. Read it, study it, underline it, and quote it loud, proud
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011