SPY, Ted Bell's latest novel featuring intrepid MI-6 intelligence
officer Alexander Hawke (following HAWKE, ASSASSIN and PIRATE),
concerns itself with the war that the United States is fighting on
a second, underreported front: the border war on our southern
coast. It doesn't involve illegal immigrants --- a point that Bell
immediately makes crystal clear --- but is a battle against a
well-organized and well-funded street gang with an international
presence that attacks through our southern border while at the same
time an unholy alliance between al-Qaeda and South and Central
American communists plans to bring the United States to its knees
once and for all.
Action and suspense abound in SPY. Bell switches locales
frequently, transporting the reader to the primitive jungles of
Brazil, where a madman concocts a technological warfare weapon with
frightening consequences; to a border town where a brave,
principled sheriff who is outgunned and undermanned makes what may
well be a last stand against a vicious group of thugs; and to the
Florida coast, where a plane crash reveals yet another frightening
piece of the puzzle involving an insidious plot against the United
Bell draws the reader rapidly and continuously into the story,
providing a reading experience that will have you glued to the
pages. Hawke, the ultimate unifying factor in SPY, is believable as
a character; real blood runs through his veins, and he inevitably
loses some in the course of his duties. However, the narrative is
by no means unrelentingly grim. Hawke's interplay with the many
worthy secondary characters, male and female, is always amusing, as
is the extremely subtle tribute to a classic mainstay of youth
fiction that runs throughout the book.
What ultimately separates SPY from its many siblings in the
thriller genre is Bell's ability to inject his fictional world into
this one down to the last nuance. The PS-13s, a criminal gang
described here, exist under a (very) similar name and are the
targets of an FBI Task Force even as these words are being written.
Al-Qaeda did attempt to recruit it as an ally, though, according to
the FBI, it was unsuccessful in doing so (at least to date). But
the potential for the threat against the United States on multiple
fronts --- as set forth in SPY --- remains uncomfortably real, a
factor that ratchets up the novel's suspense level immeasurably.
Read, and be prepared.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011