The First Hostage (J.B. Collins #2), by Joel C. Rosenberg

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Joel C. Rosenberg, and Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Picking up where the previous novel ended, panic is at its height as ISIS has turned a Middle East Peace Summit into a bloodbath. Amidst the chaos, the President of the United States (POTUS) is missing and no one can reach anyone in the security detail. New York Times Foreign Correspondent, J.B. Collins, is set to file a fragmented story to let the world know of this monumental event, but is curtailed by his editors. After releasing the news on social media, outlets around the world are buzzing and Collins finds himself in the crosshairs of some high in the US Administration and various branches of security. Collins is airlifted out of the region alongside the King of Jordan, as they set about trying to locate POTUS and determine next steps in this war against ISIS. When a video is released, showing POTUS as a prisoner in an undisclosed ISIS location, Collins hopes to work from the inside and provide ongoing news to the outside world, though is banned from doing so by the King and those in the upper echelon of the Jordanian military. An investigation unveils an American mole feeding information to ISIS in hopes of assisting in the killing of POTUS, with Collins the purported source, and he is detained on charges of treason. However, deep intelligence sources reveal that Collins’ detention is a ruse to flush out the actual mole, whose identity will shock the world. As POTUS remains captive and a massive ransom is demanded by ISIS leaders, Collins must work with US Forces, Mossad, and the Jordanians to undertake a major rescue operation. Using lesser-known biblical passages and an expert within his own family, Collins seeks to determine the location of POTUS, while he wonders if this is a modern depiction of the End of Days, as recounted in both the Bible and Koran.With ISIS prepared to stop at nothing to embarrass the Great Satan and exemplify their power through acts of extreme violence, the clock is ticking with POTUS’ execution looming. Another wonderful political thriller by Rosenberg, who pulls ideas from the headlines, but offers a wonderfully balanced approach in his storytelling, while peppering the narrative with religious references throughout. Not to be dismissed by anyone who loves exceptionally detailed political works of fiction.

Since discovering Rosenberg, I have not been able to put down his novels. They are both highly entertaining and educational, while also offering a detailed examination of issues currently in the headlines. While political thriller writers of the past have used a black and white approach to their stories (Allies vs. Axis, Cold War Western World vs. Eastern Bloc, and even US vs. Islamic Terrorists), Rosenberg looks to blur lines and offer that grey area, whereby readers learn of the actors who are in the middle, with allegiance to one side while having religious and historical ties to the other. The ISIS issue is a newer and highly controversial topic, which Rosenberg could have pitted as an American against the Muslim World story, but he chose not to go that route. Identifying the Jordanians and some of the newer Iraqi and Syrian political forces that are not supporting ISIS allows the reader to pull off the blinders that media outlets may be trying to push onto the ignorant passive news junkie. Rosenberg fleshes out the complexity in the region while telling the political story that helps shape the region’s struggles and undermines the need for a better understanding ahead of knee-jerk presuppositions. As with all his novels, Rosenberg adds a biblical flavour to things, speaking of prayer, salvation, and referencing passages in the Bible itself, but this is not done to inculcate. These topics do need examination, as Rosenberg does pull out some interesting prophetic quotations that are applicable to current situations, while letting the reader decide what to believe. Political intrigue and a highly energetic story meets a wonderful cast of characters and thoroughly realistic narrative, which catapults Rosenberg to the top of his genre. Fans and new readers alike can only hope that there is more to come from this author, who has shown time and again that he knows the genre, the nuances of Middle Eastern politics, and how to craft a story that pulls readers in after the opening few sentences.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg for another stellar piece of work. I cannot get enough of this, the third addictive series that you have created. I can only hope you have more to share in the coming years with as much, if not more, gusto!