Monday, February 15, 2016

Back Blast, by Mark Greaney

Mark Greaney is well-known to readers of military and political suspense novels, as he has written or co-written several Jack Ryan books.  On his own, his Gray Man series has also graced best-seller lists.  Back Blast, the newest Gray Man novel, finds Court Gentry once again fleeing from his CIA cohorts, who have put a shoot-on-sight order on him.  Of course, nothing is as simple as it might seem.

Gentry has returned to the belly of the beast, stalking CIA targets in the nation's capital, hoping to find answers to the question: Why is he a target?  Of course, he is smarter and wilier than his hunters, and stays a step ahead of them.  But behind him, a wake of destruction and death gets pinned on him.  He learns that he has become a target because of an operation called BACK BLAST.  For what it's worth, I got a kick out of this exchange between Gentry and his former team leader, Hanley, as Gentry was trying to remember what BACK BLAST was.
"That first thing we did in Jalalabad?"
"No, man.  That was BACKBEAT."
"That's right. . . . The thing in Ankara?"
Hanley looked at his former operator with bewilderment.  "Jesus, that one was called AARDVARK SANDSTORM.  Were you even paying attention during the briefings?"
Court shrugged.  "Then what the hell was BACK BLAST?"
Clearly, Gentry has been around the world a few times and pulled off some big-time operations, too many to remember.  Readers who have not read the first four Gray Man books will definitely have their interest piqued and will want to go back and read them, but, not to worry, Back Blast stands alone; readers will not be lost, wondering what's going on.

Fans of novels with lots of action, lots of details about weapons, and lots of narrow escapes by an out-gunned, out-manned hero will enjoy Back Blast.  I'd like to think that the world of espionage and national security isn't as full of backstabbers, double-dealers, and self-centered ego maniacs as the world Greaney portrays.  I'd also like to think that there are more heroic, selfless agents like Gentry.  He's not perfect, but he's a hero worth cheering for.  Whether the nation is better or worse off as a result of the actions of the actions of the CIA and black ops is a subject for another book.  In any case, Back Blast is a fun, non-stop read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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2016 Reading Challenge: A novel longer than 400 pages

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