Use of Force (Scot Harvath #16), by Brad Thor

Eight stars

Brad Thor is back with another thrilling Scot Harvath piece, sure to add new layers to the War on Terror and the clandestine nature that has kept readers hooked for fifteen previous novels. When an ill-equipped boat full of refugees sinks off the Italian coast, many die or are lost at sea. One significant body that turns up is a mid-level ISIS member with chemistry experience. After Harvarth breaks-up a potentially dangerous terror plot in Nevada, clues lead him to Libya, where a larger terror cell is plotting a significant attack. This is substantiated when a laptop found in the raid has a hidden drive, showing extensive chemical weapon attacks and options that could be used across Europe. There is a buzz inside the CIA Director’s Office, where there are whispers that senior members of the Agency are leaving to join the Carlton Group, where the eponymous head has been suffering issues of mental acuity. This may be the time to bring the Group down, or at least sully them to the point of no longer leeching Agency powerhouses. However, Reed Carlton will not go down with a few tricks of his own, unsure why his largest contractor has turned its back on him. All eyes turn to Paris when it is hit with a significant bombing. ISIS quickly claims responsibility, while a high-level Tajik operative behind the attack is plotting something even larger and more devastating at the heart of yet another Infidel stronghold. When Harvath is able to extract enough information in Libya, he leads his team into Italy, where the aforementioned refugee vessel becomes highly important. Might ISIS be smuggling some of its own into refugee camps, only to lay the groundwork for key strikes in the future? Could ISIS be teaming up with organized crime families in Italy to bring down significant portion of the population, led by a man with the odd moniker of La Formícula, or ‘the ant’. Prepared to do everything in their power to squash La Formícula before he leads a devastating strike, Harvath has little time to ponder his next move. A well-balanced piece that keeps the reader guessing as they flip pages until the explosive climax. Brad Thor fans will not be disappointed with this one, though those not familiar with the series might find it quite tech heavy.

I have long been a fan of Brad Thor and all his novels, which offer the great mix of Vince Flynn grit and Steve Berry off-beat humour. As his no-nonsense protagonist, Thor leads Scot Harvath into many an adventure without fully knowing where things will end up by the novel’s completion. Thor continues to construct a powerful backstory for Harvath, taking even more time than usual to hash-out some of his characteristics while experimenting by pushing a new layer onto the man; a set of emotions that come to the surface. Gone are the days of the neutral Harvath where killing is at the heart of his being. A collection of secondary characters also play key roles in their own ways, both to support and conflict with Harvath. The story is central and poignant to the news coming out of the region today, making the plot not only believable, but also plausible at this point on the ISIS terror matrix. The attentive reader will see some of these things and wonder if there could be some foreboding of what is to come. Those who dabble with the audiobook version of this story are treated to an extra track by the author, where Thor delves into some of the deeper areas surrounding research, influences, character mapping, and ideas for the future. A definite treat for long-time fans such as me who are always hoping to take a little more away from each novel. Harvath is going strong, but certain choices in the narrative might hint of some new pathways to come for the entire series, should Thor follow these breadcrumbs. I cannot wait to see what awaits!

Kudos, Mr. Thor for not letting up in this wonderful novel. I can see many who will be well-pleased with what is insinuated here, as well as the non-stop action.