Although Emily Benedek is known primarily as a journalist from
her dispatches in such publications as Newsweek and
Rolling Stone, she has also authored a number of nonfiction
works, two of which concern American Indian issues and one that
deals with her own spiritual journey. This time out, Benedek makes
her fiction debut with RED SEA, a novel that will alter your
Although RED SEA is considered a thriller, the backstory
of its publication easily could lead one to conclude otherwise.
Benedek, while reporting for Newsweek, is said to have made
contact with a highly-placed Israeli counterterrorism expert who,
because of his continuing role in the international community,
could have his story told only as a work of fiction. Indeed, there
are many elements of the novel that are consistent with backchannel
knowledge. Its frightening beginning --- I’ll only tell you
that this is a simply wonderful book to pick up before a
transatlantic flight! --- only heralds the planning of a more
ambitious and catastrophic plot, directed against the United States
but with worldwide ramifications.
The mastermind behind it is Mansour Obaidi, an Islamofascist whose
history of actions against the United States goes back for decades.
It is Julian Granot, a recently “retired” Israeli
Special Forces commander --- the length of his so-called
“retirement” seems to be at the discretion and pleasure
of the Israeli military --- who slowly comes to realize that the
high-profile first strike of the terrorists is but a prelude to
what is about to occur. Granot is shocked, however, when he
discovers Obaidi’s involvement, for he has a personal history
with Obaidi that will not end until one of them is dead.
Matters are complicated by the interjection of Marie Peterssen, a
journalist who is very quick to realize that there is more behind
the initial terror attack than was originally thought. Though
Peterssen is not aware of it, there is a link between her, Obaidi
and Granot, one that leaves both Obaidi and Granot vulnerable to
each other and to Peterssen. As Obaidi’s plot moves speedily
to its execution, Granot finds himself stymied not only by his own
superiors but by his nation’s greatest ally: the one he is
attempting to protect.
Granot discovers an unexpected ally, however, in Morgan Ensley, a
maverick FBI agent who believes more in results than in protocol
and who, upon making the acquaintance of Peterssen, is doubly
motivated to protect and serve. The combined efforts of Granot,
Peterssen and Ensley may not be enough, though, as Obaidi’s
ingenious plot to bring the United States to its knees proceeds
inexorably to its conclusion.
More than a great debut, RED SEA introduces a cast of
characters that, should Benedek be desirous of such, would easily
sustain an ongoing franchise. It simply doesn’t get any
better than this.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011