Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey Inside their Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East, by Joel C. Rosenberg

Eight 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 publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

As a former student of politics and a lover of political thrillers of all stripes, I have come to really enjoy the work of Joel C. Rosenberg. I do not profess to know a great deal about the intricacies of the Middle East or its precarious political situation, outside of the primary tenets developed in the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st. Rosenberg’s fiction has been quite telling, at times predicting events that did occur, which has always left me paying close attention when he spins a tale. In this, a piece of non-fiction, Rosenberg not only offers his opinions about progress in the region, but he provides first-hand accounts of discussions and scenarios with the various actors who have/will be responsible for peace in the region, as well as the emergence of religious freedoms, namely for evangelical Christians. It’s a telling piece and eye opening at the same time.

Rosenberg makes clear in the opening portion of the book that he is no soothsayer or prognosticator of what will happen in the region, but has been able to engage in key meetings with various high-ranking officials to get their opinions on situations, as well as forecasting what is likely to come in a reform movement. Israel is no longer an automatic pariah to countries in the region, though it is not a one-sided situation where Arab and Muslim countries are prepared to simply ‘take a knee’ and let Israel have what they have wanted since 1948. As with anything, there is a balance, albeit precarious, to a peace in the Middle East and the harmony that will occur thereafter.

While not seeking to name drop or put himself on a pedestal, Rosenberg makes clear that he has been given some unique access to various world leaders in the past few years. Organizing delegations as a Jewish evangelical Christian (you have to read the book to understand) and Israeli citizen (in all honesty, a joint US-Israeli citizen for the past number of years), Rosenberg has broken new ground in getting leaders of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and even Saudi Arabia, to sit with him and share their visions for the future. These include both within the country, as well as throughout the region. All include a view towards a peaceful interaction with Israel and a stronger connection to the evangelical Christian base Rosenberg espouses.

As the title asserts, there are also enemies in the region who would seek to stymie progress, or who are not helpful to the peace process. Iran and Turkey are two of these countries and their leaders, while perhaps eschewing their own version of the truth, have taken a hard-nose approach to both Israel and the United States. Rosenberg is clearly critical, not only of these actors (tossing Russia in there as well), but also points to a lack of definitive political bullying by the Obama Administration when they had the chance. While there are moments of sycophantic, pro-Trump rhetoric, the book does not make the past president appear to be the saviour of the region or that his views are the only hope for peace.

Rosenberg uses the last portion of the book to explore the possibility of religious freedom in the region, particularly for evangelical Christians. There appears to be a move towards such freedoms, citing that a number of the leaders to whom he spoke were happy to allocate a portion of the country to open Christian religious practice, as well as the building of churches. This is, according to Rosenberg, progress that parallels the emergence of a peace with Israel, inching forward slowly but notably.

While a piece of non-fiction and surely meant to convey some of the region’s history and current political turnaround, the book is not a dry recollection of events. Rather, it is Rosenberg’s personal interactions and conversations with leaders in the region over a period of years. While there are moments of necessary paraphrasing, it is full of strong quotes and explanations that readers without a thorough understanding of the region of its leaders can digest with ease. I found myself flying through the chapters, as they are intriguing and offer insights I had not considered, even if it is clearly seen through the lens of the speaker at times and not always analyzed through every angle. Backed by substantive endnotes, Rosenberg shows that this is not a soapbox diatribe, but rather work supported by documentation to which the reader can refer if they choose.

I will continue reading many of the fictional accounts of the region that Joel C. Rosenberg develops in his novels, as they tell a story that few other authors can present. The nuances woven into their narratives are not to be dismissed as off-hand or fairytales, as Rosenberg has shown that he knows the region, its actors, and the possible fallout. Fans of his work may enjoy this to see where some of the ideas for his past (and future) novels come from, though this is also a great piece for those who enjoy a perspective or two on Middle East politics and the upcoming perspectives of key players.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for an intriguing look at the other side of your writing. I enjoy seeing your non-fiction writing, as it complements those novels I have come to enjoy for the past many years!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Beirut Protocol (Marcus Ryker #4), by Joel C. Rosenberg

Eight 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 publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Joel C. Rosenberg is back with another of his nail-biting thrillers that pulls together many of the current goings-on in the Middle East and their delicate political interactions. Special Agent Marcus Ryker is in the region as an advance team with the Diplomatic Security Service, scouting things out before the signing of a major peace treaty. However, things go terribly wrong and he soon becomes a pawn of a ruthless regime seeking to flex its own muscle in the region. Rosenberg aptly covers all the perspectives with strong actors and leaves the reader feeling as though they are in the middle of the action in The Beirut Protocol. Recommended to those who have loved his work in the past, as well as the reader who cannot get enough of political thrillers.

It seemed like an easy mission for Marcus Ryker and his team, all part of the US Diplomatic Security Service, as they worked ahead of the upcoming peace treaty signing between America and the Saudis. However, along the Israel-Lebanon border, Ryker and his team are captured by Hezbollah and taken to a compound. It’s only later that Ryker’s identity is discovered after some brutal interrogating and torture techniques.

While no one in the White House is yet aware of what’s happened, the news travels to Tehran quickly. Iran is in the middle of its own political vacuum, with the Grand Ayatollah having died and a new man about to be chosen for the job. Whomever assumes the role, their support of Hezbollah is almost guaranteed and having Ryker will prove to be a gift no one could imagine.

While Ryker tries to get himself out of the clutches of Hezbollah, he musty act quickly. He’s a wanted man, having scuttled a number of plans by America’s most ardent enemies. It will require a great deal of planning and determination if Ryker hopes to make it out alive. Still, the rewards could be monumental, particularly if it means the Americans and Saudis can move ahead with their peace treaty, which is sure to open the door to more tranquility in the region.

Joel C. Rosenberg has long been a favourite author of mine, not only because of his political thrillers, but also since he knows just how to lay the groundwork for a plausible story. Many who are familiar with a number of his series will recall that he predicted some of the major events in the region in the late 1990s and into the 20th century, almost foreboding the events that would lead to clashes that pit countries and regions against one another today.

Marcus Ryker has been a great protagonist throughout the series. Rosenberg has been able to develop him effectively throughout the series, mixing a strong determination with some key personal backstory. The series has become more intense because of Ryker’s presence and one can only hope that Rosenberg is not entirely done with this man, who seems at ease no matter where he finds himself in the world, or which enemy awaits him.

Rosenberg’s creation of strong secondary characters is like few others I have seen before. Each actor plays a key role in the larger narrative and keeps the reader enthralled as they learn about how political and social situations are seen through a number of lenses. While it can be hard to keep the countries and their politics straight, Rosenberg has a great list at the start of the book to provide the reader just what they need to keep the plot flowing with each actor and the flavour brought to the narrative. While there are usually a large number of actors being used, Rosenberg is always spot-on about how he hopes to effectively utilise those who push the story forward.

The overall story was, as usual, amazing and well-paced. Rosenberg understands the nuances of the region to provide the reader with something to keep them on their toes. The writing is of high caliber and keeps the reader interested throughout the story, with key moments of dialogue to paint an even more intense picture of how the machinery of Middle East politics works. With short chapters that push the reader to keep the story going, Rosenberg jams much into his writing and does not let the reader rest on their laurels at any time. With a plot that is well-paced and full of twists, the reader is never left knowing what is to come, which helps to add new layers of thrills to an already stunning piece.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for another winner. I cannot wait to see what you have next for your fans and how the future of the region will shape your writing.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/the-beirut-protocol/

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Jerusalem Assassin (Marcus Ryker #3), by Joel C. Rosenberg

In the stunning continuation of his latest Middle East politics series, Joel C. Rosenberg takes readers deeper into the battle to find peace in the region, as well as the new and intensifying groups that will stop at nothing to derail anything that benefits Israel. Marcus Ryker continues to keep an ear to the ground when it comes to rumblings in the Middle East. He is still forced to watch his back after taking significant action against the Russian leadership not long ago and has been covertly hired by the CIA to help them better understand the new threats against America in the region. When Ryker’s own church is the target of a terrorist attack, he’s shaken and reveals as much to the President of the United States. While compassionate words are exchanged, POTUS is still planning to unveil a major peace initiative for the Middle East on a trip to Jerusalem, in hopes that the Israelis and Palestinians will join him in finally making some headway. Subsequent blasts in DC and the American Embassy in London proves devastating, but POTUS remains focussed on his plan. Meanwhile, hidden away from the eyes of many, an all-out fatwa on both the US president and the Israeli prime minister is offered, with Islamic notoriety sure to follow. A new organisation rises from the ashes where many have failed, sure to take its opponents by storm. Kairos seeks to wrestle control of the Muslim world from those nations who are weak in their opposition to anything anti-Israeli and their latest idea could rock the region and change the balance of power. When the Palestinians scoff at the American peace plan, a new and shocking Islamic replacement in the form of Saudi Arabia emerges as a potential mouthpiece. With the secret summit inching closer, Ryker must ensure that Kairos is not able to strike with their newest weapon, as it will mean disaster for everyone. With intel trickling in, Ryker and his group think that they have the target in their sights, only to learn that nothing is quite as it seems. Is peace in the Middle East a possibility, or will bloody attacks that see a high casualty rate be all the media reports on in the coming days? Rosenberg proves that he is a stellar writer and has a handle on this sub-genre of political thrillers. Recommended to those who love Middle East politics, as well as the reader who desires a high caliber piece with significant research to support fictional claims.

I discovered Joel C. Rosenberg’s writing a number of years ago, finding his depiction of the Middle East situation quite poignant. I suspect I am not the only one, as many have commented on Rosenberg’s uncanny ability to forecast and forebode some of the goings-on in the region, particularly in his first series. Marcus Ryker is the protagonist of this fourth series with similar undertones, though the action has not abated whatsoever. His commitment to his country is fuelled by the fact that he lost a wife and child years ago. His dedication to his personal faith is also something that drives him to seek success, though he seems less likely to inculcate fellow characters than others in past series. Determined not to miss any clue that could work to help America forge a lasting peace, Ryker works tirelessly to make a difference, no matter the cost. The handful of other characters within the book offer wonderful flavouring to the overall plot and narrative, providing different regional perspectives that are essential to better understanding the tensions and the hidden agendas that fuel the animosity on both sides. Rosenberg pulls no punches and is able to educate the reader as they delve deeper into this masterful series. The story was yet again top-notch and offered some unique approaches to the Middle East peace process, while still pushing the thread of Israel being recognised as a regional partner. Rosenberg’s past work in the region shines through in his writing and his use of short chapters pulls the reader in and makes them want to know more as the plot thickens. Another wonderful book in a series that has me on the edge of my seat, I can only wonder where Rosenberg will take things from here. That being said, it’s surely somewhere worth going, though I will have to be patient to see what twists emerge.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for another wonderful novel. You captivate and speak so frankly while writing in such a way that the entertainment value is never lost on the curious reader.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Persian Gamble, by Joel C. Rosenberg

Eight 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 publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Joel C. Rosenberg is back with another political thriller that is quite timely, knowing current geo-political situations. With Marcus Ryker inside Russia, he is on a mission to bring an agent planted inside the Russian Government to safety, where they can discuss much of what he has learned. However, with the recent assassination of the Russian President and head of the FSB, there is a really good chance that this mole (and Ryker) are behind the killings, making the manhunt to find them all the more intense. When even the US Government is leery about helping, Ryker knows that he will have to reveal some of the intel to ensure their safe extraction from the edges of the Russian border region. It would seem that the Russians have made a secret military alliance with the North Koreans, which could help both sides in the event of aggression from other parts of the world. Other intel includes Russia’s plans to annex some of its former Soviet satellite countries, thereby beginning a war with NATO that is surely to devolve into a bloodbath. Add that to the news that the recently neutered Iranians have been covertly communicating with the North Koreans to obtain key pieces necessary to create a nuclear arsenal, and things could not be worse. With nuclear capabilities, the Iranians could be used against Israel, the Americans, and any others who seek to disrupt them. As Ryker fights to help out however he can, he remembers his strong Christian ties and wrestles with the increased amount of violence that will soon take place to end these political nightmares. As he tries to justify it, Ryker is sent to Japan to prepare for another mission, covertly scouting out the North Korean warheads being shipped to their Iranian partners. With bodies piling up all around them, Ryker sees friends and foes alike lose their lives, which only tests his religious beliefs, forcing him to question his role in the entire affair. A well-plotted novel that always takes politics to a new level. Fans of Rosenberg will surely want to get their hands on this piece to devour the political banter, if nothing else.

I always enjoy a good Rosenberg novel, as he is not only on point about the political situation, but has an uncanny way of predicting the future with the plots of his stories. A few past novels have been spot-on with their predictions, leaving the reader with an eerie sense of ‘could it’ as they devour each new book. Marcus Ryker plays an interesting protagonist in this book, struggling to do his job and find a balance with his religious beliefs. Rosenberg does not inculcate the reader too much with this book, but there is mention of biblical scripture and Ryker ponders what it all means. He has lost his family, so there is little but his own life to ponder, making him an unpredictable character in the field. Many of the others around him prove highly entertaining as well, their beliefs and sentimentalities key to keeping the story on track. Rosenberg is masterful at his ability to create strong characters throughout the piece and keep them growing throughout. The plot was not only plausible but also highly in touch with what is going on in various political spheres. There is little chance that Rosenberg is completely off base with some of his ideas, though just how real they could turn out to be is sure to jolt some readers when the time comes. The chapters were quick and kept the reader pushing forward, while never losing interest. One can only hope that there is more to come, be it in the series or with Rosenberg’s writing, as he is able to weave a tale like few others I have seen in all my years of reading. Politically gritty with that softer Christian passivity when it suits the plot, this is an author about whom readers should take note, if they are not already familiar with his work.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for such a great new piece. I liked much about it, even if I try not to get too bogged down by the Christian aspects of your character development.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Kremlin Conspiracy, by Joel C. Rosenberg

Nine stars

Joel C. Rosenberg is back with another stellar novel that explores the current international political climate with stunning accuracy, leaving the reader to wonder just how close to non-fiction the story might become over the next few years. Aleksandr Ivanovich Luganov is the prime minister of Russia in 1999 when numerous apartment bombs have been exploding across Moscow. With an ailing president, Luganov assumes the role and chooses Oleg Kraskin to be one of his senior aides. Kraskin, shocked by this, is honoured and admits in the early narrative to be dating Luganov’s daughter. He hopes to marry her in short order and broaches the subject with Luganov in the early chapters. Working with Luganov, Kraskin sees his boss assume the role of President of the Russian Federation with hopes of putting Mother Russia back in her place of prominence. Across the globe, young Marcus Ryker is living in Colorado and hoping to make a name for himself. When he witnesses the attacks on September 11, 2001, he sees a chance to serve the United States in its military efforts. A courageous mission sees him almost lose his life and he decides to find new (and safer?) ways to serve. With a wife and a young son, Ryker joins the Secret Service, hoping to find his niche. While Ryker is rising the ranks and protecting significant political players, Kraskin is back in Russia and watching President Luganov begin a game of political chess as he seeks to reclaim some of the old Soviet territories, with an eye on Ukraine and some of the other breakaway republics. Kraskin becomes leery of his father-in-law, particularly when even those closest to him seem expendable. A devastating crime in Washington forces Marcus Ryker to rethink his future, and pushes him to a crisis of faith, if only for a time. Ryker has much to offer, but is rudderless and drifting around in a mental fog. After devising a plan to strike three NATO allies and keep the Americans in the dark, Kraskin can no longer watch Luganov flex his political muscle. With the Russians prepared to begin their military attacks and armed with significant nuclear weapons, Kraskin must make a decision. Ryker is offered an interesting job that sees him use some of his past experiences, though no longer formally employed by the American Government. There, Ryker faces a decision could not only affect his future, but that of the entire US Administration. Can either man risk everything to save their respective countries from a nuclear End of Days that not even the Book of Revelation could have predicted? Rosenberg delivers a brilliant piece that fans of his novels will surely enjoy. As always, new fans will likely flock to this book, which may foretell an interesting next round in geo-political manoeuvres.

I have long enjoyed Rosenberg’s novels, not only for their content, but also because they have been close to spot-on with their predictions. He understands all the actors and the political temperatures, putting it all into a digestible novel for those who love stories ripped from the headlines. Here, Rosenberg provides what most will see as a veiled story of the rise of Putin in Russia, though there are enough vague descriptors to leave the reader some leeway in their interpretation. Ruling the country with an iron fist, Aleksandr Ivanovich Luganov proves to be not only a new Russian Czar, but also one who is prepared to poke the hornet’s nest in hopes of pushing the world to a new war. And while his predecessors may not have been ready to push the red button, Rosenberg creates this czar as happy to do whatever it takes, nuclear obliteration or not. Kraskin is an interesting character as well, though his timidity seems to work only at certain times. There is surely much to this man who tries to juggle his personal sentiments with the knowledge that his father-in-law is becoming a dictator as ruthless as Stalin. Trying to do what he feels is right may come at the ultimate cost, though Kraskin may be ready to lose it all, including his family, to save Russia. With both strong parallels and sharp contrasts, Marcus Ryker is the third central character in the novel. As Rosenberg shows throughout, Ryker grew into himself through a number of key life moments, all of which shaped the man he became. Like Kraskin, the reader is able to see Ryker’s development over the years through to the tumultuous climax of the novel. Personal loss and extreme emotional strain met Ryker head-on, though he never shied away from bearing it all in an effort to bring justice to a world riddled with disparity. The story is not only on point, but Rosenberg’s writing helps pull the reader into the centre; as though they are in the middle of each meeting, participating in every dialogue, and able to feel each sentiment the characters exude. Politically powerful, the ideological divide is clearly on offer, as is the attempt by Luganov to resurrect the Mother Russia persona in his own image, much as is being done currently within the Kremlin. Rosenberg is a staunch conservative and admits as much, but even he could not create a POTUS that would align with the Russian Czar and for that I am eternally grateful. We need some degree of fiction and this was surely a portion of the novel that does not parallel the current political situation. Rosenberg’s writing is some of the best I have read in the genre, though some readers will want fair warning that he also pushes a strong Christian theme throughout. Prayers, reference to Scripture, and even the occasional crisis of faith (whereby the character must turn to God and Jesus to overcome something). While I prefer to steer clear of this, Rosenberg has toned things down and no longer inculcates us heathen readers with seeing the Light as we try to enjoy a political thriller. Many of Rosenberg’s predictions in past series have come true, alarmingly not long after a book is released. If the same can be said of this piece, the world had best be ready for quite the showdown. Then again, should the US attack, who’ll be there to troll social media and corrupt another American election?!

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for your thorough analysis and poignant arguments on this subject. I will recommend it to any and all who love a well-crafted political thriller, and hope your other series tempt them as well.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Without Warning (J.B. Collins #3), by Joel C. Rosenberg

Nine stars

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

Rosenberg returns with another powerful political thriller, the final instalment of this trilogy, that takes an interesting spin on ISIS and Western reactionism. J.B. Collins, War Correspondent for the New York Times, remains skeptical of the US Administration’s plan to combat ISIS, as Abu Khalif, its purported leader, remains at large. Khalif and ISIS have perpetrated major and catastrophic attacks against infidel states and US-backers, culminating in the kidnapping of the American president and a massacre during a major Middle East peace summit (both of which occur in past novels, familiar to the series fan). With the State of the Union Address hours away, US President Harrison Taylor dismisses concerns Collins raises about Khalif and ISIS as a whole. Taylor wonders if he ought not to rescind his offer of a Presidential Medal of Freedom to the acclaimed journalist. When the Capitol is attacked during the Address, all hell breaks loose and Collins soon learns that ISIS has struck again, but on a much larger scale. Seeking to get away from the violence and drama, alongside an inability to stomach the lies Taylor seems to be spinning to the American public, Collins eyes a return to Maine with his brother, Matt. As they travel, a personal tragedy befalls them and Collins learns just how inept the Administration has become when it comes to ending the reign of terror that ISIS and Abu Khalif have over the world. Could the answers be in the Middle East, where American allies can fight a war against this radical and apocalyptic Islam? Collins seeks to reinvent himself and must decide if he can take up the torch, using his own set of allies to help topple ISIS at its heart before the world must fall on blended knee and admit defeat to the terrorists. With a sensational culmination to a stunningly realistic series, Rosenberg shocks readers to the core. This story and the complete trilogy offer a poignant and blunt narrative, weaving through fact and plausible fiction. A must read for those who love political thrillers and can stomach mild Christian inculcation. 

I have long been a fan of Rosenberg and his political fiction. This is the third series I have devoured as quickly as the novels come off the presses, all using a strong biblical undertone paired against current events in one of the most unstable political powder kegs. Rosenberg gathers a wonderful cross-section of characters, pulled from key states that propel the story forward and seem plausible in the fight against ISIS. Additionally, injecting realistic political and religious impairments brings a whole new level to the character interactions and places reality that much closer to the reader’s grasp. While ISIS remains the buzz word in the news today and seems to permeate thriller novels to no end, I never tired of hearing Rosenberg’s spin. I have mentioned how the same drivel bores and irritates me, Rosenberg’s angle is not only refreshing, but more realistic than some secret operative mowing down anyone who utters ‘Allah’ before ‘Hello’. Those familiar with Rosenberg’s novels will know that he has been found to offer eerie foreboding buried within his novels, perhaps tying all the pieces together as his protagonist is known for doing in this book. To treat Rosenberg’s work as pure fiction is to ignore the nuances and attention to detail the author places as he pens his plots. The writing style is some of the best in the genre and the short chapters offer readers a wonderful ability to get hooked and beg themselves to read ‘just a little more’ as cliffhangers grow exponentially. While I am not a fan of ‘in your face’ Christianity, I have become immune to some of it in Rosenberg’s stories and dodge the born-again land mines that emerge throughout. Rosenberg knows what he is doing and readers should flock in his direction, if only to learn about the Middle East and its political importance on the world scene.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg. You have done it again with a powerful political thriller series that has me so captivated. I have promoted you and your work to as many people as will listen. This novel proves yet again that my recommendations are well founded.