Patriot (Alexander Hawke #9), by Ted Bell

Seven stars

Ted Bell returns with another Alex Hawke thriller, full of espionage and political drama. When spies around the world turn up dead, Lord Alex Hawke and his partner, Ambrose Congreve, begin investigating. What looks like an old CIA vendetta may have larger implications for Hawke and his entire family, especially after an attack at his home in Bermuda and a potential honey trap by a mysterious woman who matches the description of someone seen at each of the murders. With the investigation heating up, there is a covert attempt to poison young Alexei Hawke, leaving Alex no choice but to place his son in protective custody. As Hawke approaches Russian President Putin, who is close to one of the murdered spies, the power-hungry leader shows off a new and powerful weapon that he’s recently added to his cache. Meanwhile, an American mercenary is summoned to the barren wastelands of Siberia to meet with a Russian known only as ‘Uncle Joe’, with plans to build an international fighting force to do Putin’s bidding, while offering plausible deniability to the authoritarian. Hawke soon discovers that Putin’s interests are sinister and that the weapon he was shown is at the heart of a land-grab that could see NATO countries fall and a return of the Soviet Empire, all while putting the blame on the United States. Can Hawke stop things before a new war emerges, sure to bring the West to its knees? Bell amps up the action and casts Hawke in the light of a determined saviour of freedom in this latest instalment to the series.

While not his best work, Bell has an effective means of transmitting the Alex Hawke character to his readers. While I have mentioned that the entire Hawke persona grates on my nerves at times, the story does advance well. Use of a handful of key characters, some of whom suffer mortal peril, allows the larger series story to advance, while not detracting from the novel’s impetus. Bell has a handle on the narrative and can spin numerous storylines before having them converge in a seamless manner. That he parachutes famous political figures into the middle of the story and treats them as just another character shows how relaxed he has become with his own writing, which may intrigue or annoy the reader. I remain a fan, though find myself trying not to get caught up in the minutiae as Bell seeks to create a new James Bond out of his protagonist.

Kudos, Mr. Bell for another successful novel. You capture the idea of a new Cold War effectively, in a time when other authors remain obsessed with ISIS and and cross-cultural terrorism.