Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Targets of Revenge

by Jeffrey S. Stephens
Gallery Books    2013
441 pages     Fiction

Jordan Sandor returns for the third time in a skillfully rendered action novel, Targets of Revenge, and revenge is the key to the plot. In almost typical James Bond style, Sandor is out to get a terrorist with the code-name Adina, who apparently had caused a lot of havoc in one of the two previous Target books, Targets of Deception and Targets of Opportunity. The interesting thing about Adina is that he operates out of Venezuela. Who knew Venezuela was a hotbed of terrorism? 

In an attempt to "take out" Adina, Sandor discovers that Adina is manufacturing Anthrax and has plans to deliver a massive Anthrax attack, probably on New York City. Sandor races around the globe following the trail of a huge cocaine shipment in which the Anthrax might be buried. We are taken to Egypt, Russia, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Washington, and chapter headings let us know where we are. Sandor seemingly answers to no one and spends most of his time telling the US government officials what he is going to do next--or not telling the US government officials what he is going to do next. Sandor is not one to take orders.

The reviewer in Suspense Magazine says that Targets of Revenge is like a "big summer action movie." There are last-second escapes in virtually every chapter, and nothing seems to deter Sandor's two-fold mission--to wreak revenge on Adina and to save Manhattan. He outwits Venezuelan terrorists, Mexican drug runners, Russian drug lords in Egypt, and the Russian Mafia in Brooklyn. He escapes from a drug lab in the jungle of Venezuela, a barn in Mexico and a basement in Brooklyn. He loses a girlfriend and two co-workers; wherever he goes, murder and mayhem follow. I wish I had kept count of the dead bodies--the score count would have been huge. But even Sandor bemoans the mayhem. "Sandor lived in a world of brutality and deception, but even in the context of that shadowy existence there were still boundaries." Frankly, I didn't see many boundaries.

There are some light moments. Sandor is pretty smart mouthed, and he seems to get by with sarcastic quips to almost everyone, including the higher ups in the government, who seem to shrug their shoulders and pass it off as just another incidence of Sandor being Sandor. One of my favorite bits of writing comes when Sandor arrives at the headquarters of a Russian mobster in Brighton Beach.  "'Private party tonight,' he told them in an accent as thick as a Russian novel." (Loved that!)  

One of the things I found most interesting was the underlying political agenda of the author, which comes out in lecture form. For example, in a chapter where the action takes place in Washington Heights, New York City, the welfare atmosphere of the neighborhood is introduced in this way: "Just as jihadists nurture anti-Western hatred in their impressionable children, anti-American socialists promote the politics of blame as they deride the capitalist ethic of hard work and achievement, preaching the easy life promised to all by entitlement programs." Some of the preaching goes with the Sandor's character, but most of it goes with the character of the author I would guess.

All-in-all, however, the book was fun. I love James Bond movies, especially the Daniel Craig ones, and I just kept visualizing Daniel Craig as Jordan Sandor. I can only imagine that Jeffrey Stephens is envisioning the same thing. 

You might also enjoy The Intercept by Dick Wolf which also takes place in New York. I read and reviewed it last month.

 Here is the Kirkus review of the book in which they said, " As skillfully rendered as the book is, readers will not necessarily look forward to the next installment in the series."

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