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Saturday, July 28, 2012
Reading List: The First Commandment
- Thor, Brad.
The First Commandment.
New York: Pocket Books, 2007.
This is the sixth in the author's
Harvath series, which began with
The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010).
In the aftermath of the shocking conclusion to the previous
novel, Takedown (November 2011),
Department of Homeland Security agent Scot Harvath discovers
that he, personally, has become the target of a plot by
person or persons unknown, aimed at individuals
close to him in a series of attacks of Biblical proportions.
When he starts to follow the trail of evidence back to the source,
he is told to stand down by no less than the president of the
United States, who declines to specify a reason. Harvath is
not a man easily dissuaded, especially when convinced that his
loved ones and colleagues are in imminent danger simply due to
their association with him, and he goes rogue, enlisting friends
in the shadowy world of private security to dig into the mystery.
This doesn't sit well with the president, who puts Harvath on a
proscription list and dispatches a CIA “Omega Team”
to deal with him. At one point a CIA agent and friend, to whom
Harvath protests that he has every right to protect those close
to him, responds “You don't have any rights. Jack Rutledge
is the president of the United States. When he tells you to
do something, you do it.” (At this point, I'd have preferred
if Harvath decked the CIA goon and explained to him that his
rights come from God, not the president of the United States,
and that while a politician may try to infringe those rights,
they remain inherent to every person. But maybe Harvath has
been working so long for the slavers that he's forgotten that.)
As Harvath follows the murky threads, he comes across evidence
which suggests a cover-up extending into the oval office, and is
forced into an uneasy détente with his nemesis, the
pint-sized supervillain known as the Troll, whose data mining
prowess permits connecting the dots in an otherwise baffling
situation. (People in Harvath's line of work tend not to
lack for enemies, after all.)
I found this to be the best Brad Thor novel I've read so
far—it's lighter on the action and gadgets and more
concentrated on the mystery and the motivations of the malefactors.
I prefer to read a series of novels in the order in which
they describe the life of the protagonist.
This book does contain sufficient background
and context so that it will work as a stand-alone thriller, but
if you haven't read the previous novels, you'll miss a lot of
the complexity of Harvath's relationships with characters
who appear here.