Robert Ludlum’s The Treadstone Exile (Treadstone #2), by Joshua Hood

Seven stars

I am a purist by heart, which has caused me some grief over the years as I read. While I understand that some authors have created a wonderful series and then something happens to them, it is rare to find another writer who can pick up the reins and do just as wonderful a job with a strong foundation. Thankfully, Joshua Hood is one of those, though he is creating his own Treadstone series based on previous novels by the esteemed Robert Ludlum. In this sequel, Hood explores more in the world of Operation: Treadstone and how one man’s past working within it could be his downfall. Adam Hayes wants nothing to do with his past, when he was part of a CIA program meant to create superhuman assassins. His work for a charity organisation in Africa is derailed when his plane lands in the middle of a warlord’s territory. In order to free himself and get back to his young family, Hayes will have to tap into the past he swore to shelve and protect a few people around him, all while remaining stealthy. A jam-packed piece that kept me interested throughout, proving the Joshua Hood is the real deal and Ludlum would likely be proud of his efforts.

Adam Hayes remembers well the days of Operation: Treadstone, the black-ops CIA plan to turn agents into ruthless assassins. However, those days are over for him and now all he wants to do is help those in need. His current work includes a charity in Burkina Faso, which has him flying around Africa as needed. During one of those missions, Hayes finds himself with some plane trouble after being attacked and is forced to land.

As Hayes tries to secure parts for the plane, he encounters Zoe Cabot, daughter to a tech baron who is both enticing and friendly. Hayes is committed to his wife, but cannot help wanting to come to the aid of a damsel in distress. When Cabot is kidnapped by a local warlord, Hayes is thrust into action to help her, even if it will delay his charitable venture.

While Hayes is on the hunt for Cabot, some learn that he is in possession of millions of dollars for the charity, making him a new target. Hayes will have to use his skills and try not to tip his hand at that which he is truly capable, for fear that it could cause massive bloodshed.

Back in Washington, the Intelligence community is eager to get Treadstone back on track, even if doing so could spell disaster without someone strong at the reins. Rogue agents have been a problem in the past and this could easily occur again, given the right mix of aggression and determination.

While Hayes races to find the captive Cabot, he’s also forced to dodge those who see him as even greater prey, with money and stealth that could be useful to them. Africa is surely much different than rural America, where blood and violence supersede all else. Hayes will have to do whatever he can to overcome it all and remain alive to end the mission. Another great addition to this new series, which has wonderful potential in the hands of Joshua Hood.

As I said above, I am always leery about letting others take over the work (or ideas) of an established author. I have seen too many disappointments in my time to want to stick my neck out and try. However, when I have Joshua Hood the chance last year, I was impressed with his Treadstone piece and sought out this sequel to see if things could remain at the same caliber. They have and I am impressed, hoping those who love rogue espionage thrillers will take note and give this series a try as well.

Adam Hayes is a decent protagonist, giving a strong backstory and some wonderful character development. With a past as a ruthless agent, Hayes wants to offer his services through charity. There’s something to be said for his determination, as he will put himself and a great deal of money on the line to help others. While in Africa, Hayes will have to adapt to new customs and ideas, all while trying to keep his cool and remain in check, so as not to cause a massive dust up. Still, his is not about to take it all lying down, when honour is on the line.

Joshua Hood does well to create some flavour in the story with a strong cast of secondary characters. While I did not find myself connecting with many of them, there is a true sense of drawing Hayes out and showcasing his skills. I quite enjoyed that Hood steered away from some of the stereotypical villains (read: Islamic terrorists or Russians) and moved into something a little more unique, offering up something that has not been flogged to death. This aspect was quite intriguing and I hope to see more of it in future novels.

The story took a while to get going for me, though I was not bored per se. I am used to the action beginning in the opening pages, but Hood chose to slowly reveal things and pushed much of the impactful writing to the second half of the book. The reader is treated to a strong narrative that gains momentum as the story develops, with tense moments sure to keep them flipping pages well into the night, particularly in the African setting of ruthless warlords. With a mix of chapter lengths and cliffhanger moments, Hood pushes the reader to the brink in the most exciting manner. I can only wonder what else Treadstone has in store for readers and how the series will evolve.

Kudos, Mr. Hood, for another winner. I will have to keep my eye out for your work and see if I cannot find myself fully committed soon!

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