Foreign Agent (Scot Harvath #15), by Brad Thor

Seven stars

Thor continues his meteoric rise in the genre with another novel pulled directly from potential headlines. After a brutal bombing that killed a group of American operatives seeking to destroy a pillar of the ISIS organisation, all heads shift back to Washington, demanding answers. How could an operation so important and long in the making be infiltrated and ruined, its key members obliterated? The assassination of a high-ranking Cabinet official is the second attack by ISIS, which increases the ire of all, made worse when it is flaunted all over the Internet. Worried that things will continue to spiral out of control, Scot Harvath is summoned by the White House to complete a reconnaissance mission and complete the kill order, no matter the cost. As he trolls through the ashes of the attacks, he finds himself in Europe, gathering essential intelligence and making new contacts. Meanwhile, the narrative focusses attention on Sacha Baseyev, whose youth was filled with hatred of all things Muslim after an attack on his village. Russian Special Operations have honed this hatred and sent him out to infiltrate ISIS at the highest level. However, in order to fit in, he might have to commit a few atrocities along the way. When Harvath learns that Baseyev is at the centre of the attacks on the Americans, he will stop at nothing to bring him down, as well as the cell of ISIS fighters around him. What begins as intel gathering soon turns into the most covert of missions in the deserts of Syria. No mission has been as dangerous, as covert, or as important as the one Harvath has undertaken. And, with plausible deniability the name of the game, there are no safety nets to protect him. With all this taking place, a keen senator lurks in the shadows, seeking not only to take down the POTUS, but also to uncover just what sort of illegal black ops are going ahead without congressional approval. Thor offers wonderful insights and pushes the envelope as far as he can to rile up the reader, at a time when ISIS teeters on the brink. Highly enjoyable for those with an open mind and a strong heart!

I have always enjoyed a good Brad Thor novel, as he mixes espionage and action with terror and bloodshed. While I have lamented many authors for writing about ISIS to the point of flogging a dead horse, Thor’s character, Scot Harvath, is not only able to spin his adventures so as not to make it a cookie-cutter narrative, but to instil some unique angles. While some may call it preaching (to the choir), I find his political spins not only poignant, but necessary to see the larger picture. It is the curious reader who will rush out to read this and see for themselves, but I can see much being made of these suggestions and look to the next five years, as political holdings in the region are sure to shift. Thor has always worked with a collection of well-developed characters and advances the Scot Harvath backstory seamlessly throughout his writing. The dedicated series reader will notice that while Harvath retains his job, he is always advancing in his personal life, as glacial as that might be. With plots pulled from the headlines, Thor is able to add his own flavour to events, but also to push away from the constant US v. ISIS that floods the airwaves and lesser novels in the genre. I can never be sure where Thor will take the reader, nor how close to peril Harvath will find himself. This might be part of the draw, and surely keeps me keen to queue up for the next instalment.

Kudos, Mr. Thor for this. You are aptly named, for you are a god of your genre and all-powerful when it comes to storytelling. Hammer out another novel for your adoring fans, will ya?!