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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Reading List: The First Commandment

Thor, Brad. The First Commandment. New York: Pocket Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4516-3566-9.
This is the sixth in the author's Scot 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.

Posted at July 28, 2012 16:52