Whenever I need a reality check I reach for a Brad Thor novel.
His latest, THE APOSTLE, arrives just in time to set an upside-down
world right again.
The Apostle, as Thor hastens to inform us in the opening pages,
is the new breed of operator in the war on terror in the United
States. While the term “war on terror” has fallen into
disfavor in some circles, as a practical, real-world matter it
still applies and is still being waged. So it is that at the
beginning of the book, in a world identical to ours, covert
counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath finds himself out of a job
due to a change in presidential administrations. President Robert
Alden is more interested in appearances than reality, to the
detriment of the United States at home and abroad. Harvath’s
employment status changes quickly and dramatically, however, when
Julia Gallo, an American doctor with CARE International, is
kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Gallo is the daughter of one of the new President’s major
financial and media supporters, so her selection as a target for
abduction is anything but an accident. The terms of her ransom,
communicated to the newly minted and wholly inexperienced
President, are simple: Gallo is to be exchanged for Mustafa Khan,
an al-Qaeda terrorist who is the mastermind behind several Afghan
attacks. The Afghan government is not about to release the maniac,
insisting, understandably, that Khan must stand trial for his
actions. Harvath is recruited to spirit Khan from the high-security
Afghan prison where he is incarcerated and to exchange him for
Gallo. It is an extremely high-risk, off-the-books mission; Harvath
and a specialized group of private contractors are on their own in
a savage environment where the line between friend and foe is a
To make matters more interesting, Harvath decides in the middle
of the mission that releasing Khan upon an unsuspecting world is
too large a risk for the country he has taken an oath to protect,
an oath that, unlike President Alden, he takes seriously. What few
people know, however, is that the kidnapping and the exchange are
part of a larger plot to embarrass the United States in the Middle
East and restore Russia as a major player in the area.
Meanwhile, as Harvath is fighting for his life and attempting to
rescue Gallo from her captors, a secret that President Alden has
successfully kept from the public threatens to be revealed,
creating a scandal that could upend the administration. As the
stories spin out along twin tracks, events on opposite ends of the
world raise toward conclusions with the potential to change the
course of history.
Thor continues to top himself with each successive novel and
reaches new and even more exciting heights with THE APOSTLE.
Harvath, a contemporary man for all seasons, has the potential to
become an icon for our time, one that we need now more than ever.
Recent events will give Thor a target-rich environment for future
books for at least the next few years, and given the uncannily
prescient abilities that he has displayed in past works, the
conclusion may be cause for standing and cheering.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010