House of War (Ben Hope #20), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Scott Mariani, and Avon Books UK for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A long-time fan of Scott Mariani and his work, I eagerly read this latest Ben Hope thriller when I could get my hands on it. Full of poignant themes and a quick narrative, Mariani does not disappoint his readers. After returning to France from his most recent mission, Ben Hope only wants to enjoy the sights and sounds of home. However, he has a chance encounter when he literally bumps into a young woman. In the scuffle, she forgets her phone and Hope is able to track down her home address. Trying to be helpful in this age of digital technology, Hope arrives to deliver it, only to find that she has been slain in her apartment. He thinks back to the man he crossed in the stairwell and it clicks. It was a man he thought long dead from his days in the SAS. However, it would seem that Nazim al-Kassar is anything but dead. A ruthless fighter for ISIS/ISIL, al-Kassar brings back many a bloody memory for Hope. Trying to find out how to handle locating and instilling his own form of justice, Hope reaches out to some of his former SAS compatriots. In doing so, Hope also discovers that this woman has ties to one Julien Segal, who may be working with al-Kassar. The hunt is on for both men, which reveals an even more complex situation. As the narrative heightens, there is reference to a passage in the Koran, which can be interpreted as seeking a ‘House of War’, whereby the world should be converted to Islam or subjugated by those who follow Allah. Might Nazim al-Kassan have this in mind? When Hope discovers his plan, it’s a no-holds barred attempt to wrestle control away from his madman, which might mean ending his reign of terror once and for all. An energetic new addition to the Hope series, which seems not to wane as the number of books mount. Recommended to those who enjoy something with an action-filled terror theme, as well as the reader who enjoys the Ben Hope series.

While I have long bemoaned that authors have overdone the ‘Muslim terrorist’ theme in thriller books, I found that Mariani took a slightly different approach to breathe a little new life into things. He works along the parameter and keeps the reader enthralled without feeling as though this was yet another copied plot from countless other books. While Ben Hope is well past his character development stage, it is nice to see the slightest backstory related to his SAS days. Hope remains his gritty self, seeking to help those in need, while also pushing his own agenda. Others help complement this throughout, including the hapless victims who seek Hope to release them from the grips of evil. There are some great contrasts in this book between protagonist and antagonist, even if it pushes things into the clichéd Westerner versus Islamic terrorist. The story remained interesting and can keep the reader’s attention as they push through this thriller. There are some intriguing perceptions about Koranic passages, which one can only hope bear some truthfulness, so as not to fan the flames. As the series continues to pile-up, one can only hope that Mariani will keep the novels on-point and ensures they do not go stale. To date, he has completely lived up to expectations.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for a solid addition to the series. I am eager to see where Ben Hope takes us next!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: