No one can say with any reasonable degree of validity that HIDDEN ORDER by Brad Thor shortchanges the reader. It is, by any standard, two books in one, with twice the action and suspense that one would expect, even from as stalwart and reliable an author as Thor. The novel begins on Sea Island, Georgia, then moves to Germany and Somalia in quick and deadly order before returning stateside --- to Washington, D.C. and Boston, specifically. It provides more than the requisite quota of explosions and firepower, as well as a fascinating history and civics lesson concerning an institution that is considered by very few United States citizens yet affects literally every moment of their lives.
"As always, Thor brings his 'A' game to the proceedings, and the last hundred pages are particularly riveting.... If HIDDEN ORDER does not keep you up at night, worrying about and hopefully planning for the future, then you’re not paying attention."
HIDDEN ORDER proceeds along two very fast-moving tracks. One involves Thor mainstay Scot Harvath, a former Navy SEAL and covert counterterrorism operative. Now employed by a private intelligence firm that goes by the name The Carlton Group, Harvath successfully completes a deadly retrieval mission in Somalia and is hoping for a bit of rest and recuperation. What he gets is anything but. The head of the Federal Reserve Bank has just passed away, and there are five candidates who are being considered to replace him. When all five are kidnapped in one fell swoop --- and one turns up horribly mutilated and murdered --- Harvath is called into action to prevent any further crimes and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Thor serves up a number of history lessons along the way, and in a manner that complements rather than impedes the storyline. While the term “Federal Reserve” is enough to make even the lightest of eyelids heavy, Thor explains the organization’s history, inner workings, and effect upon the day-to-day living of most Americans in a manner calculated to keep even the most casual reader up at night.
Harvath, aided by a Boston police detective, finds himself in the unique position of having to play catch-up as the five nominees are murdered, one by one, by a shadowy assassin who is apparently the product of a clandestine CIA project.
Meanwhile, Lydia Ryan, a CIA intelligence operative, is approached unexpectedly in a German airport by the deputy chief of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, a man with whom she has worked before. She is advised that a group of ex-CIA agents from a defunct project known as the Eclipse program (of which Ryan was a part) are apparently orchestrating the overthrow of a number of Middle Eastern governments, and it is feared that Jordan is next on the list. Ryan begins to investigate when she gets back to the U.S., but quickly finds herself targeted for death. Ryan’s case and Harvath’s slowly begin to intersect geographically, even as enemies of the U.S. from within and without attempt to bring the country down by attacking its foundation at the source.
As always, Thor brings his “A” game to the proceedings, and the last hundred pages are particularly riveting. The novel ends on a cautionary note that is disturbing and worrisome but all too real. If HIDDEN ORDER does not keep you up at night, worrying about and hopefully planning for the future, then you’re not paying attention.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 19, 2013