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Author: Brad Thor

Title: The Apostle

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Paperback Original: 354 pages

ISBN: 978-1-444-71232-2

Price: £6.99

Publication Date: 11/11/2010

I have to admit that I’m amazed it has taken until the 8th book in the Scot Harvath series for New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor to be published in the UK. Thor’s novels tend to be very current, and The Apostle is no exception – despite the fact it was originally published in the US in 2009, its themes of Afghanistan, kidnap and cuts to government military and intelligence resources are still very resonant now.

A new president is in the White House who, having won the election on a pledge of “change”, is undoubtedly loosely based on Barack Obama [even if he is called Alden in the novel!] And one of Alden’s first changes is a rethink the US’s approach to counter-terrorism, resulting in Harvath finding himself without a job.

But when Dr Julia Gallo is kidnapped in Afghanistan as a means of forcing the president to trade Julia [the daughter of media mogul Stephanie Gallo, who ran Alden’s election campaign] for a senior Taliban commander, Harvath suddenly finds himself of vital importance to the president again. For Julia’s mother Stephanie knows of the dark secret that hangs like the Sword of Damocles over Alden’s head, and she isn’t afraid to blackmail him to ensure her daughter’s rescue. The president is thus forced into a volte-face and enlists Harvath to save Julia by any means – fair or foul.

The investigation of Alden’s secret by a Secret Service agent forms a second [noticeably subsidiary] story arc in the novel and, whilst it is interesting, I felt that it occasionally slowed down the pace of Harvath’s far more exciting plotline. An ex-SEAL, Harvath is an effective and believable counter-terrorist operative who undoubtedly owes much as a character to a couple of fictional Jacks – messrs. Reacher and Bauer. Indeed, my first reaction to the cover for The Apostle was that the image could quite easily have been from the front of a 24 DVD. And whilst in previous novels in the series, Harvath has been far more of a Action Man-esque hero, the action in The Apostle is far more measured, which actually makes the story feel a lot more realistic. For I highly doubt that, as is often the case in other books in the genre, people really spend all of their time running around in a hail of bullets!

But what really makes this book work is Thor’s obvious knowledge of what he is writing about [he used to work for the Department of Homeland Security and has appeared on a number of US news channels as a National Security expert on terrorism] – which gives The Apostle a ring of authenticity. Tense and current, with layer upon layer of duplicity and intrigue, The Apostle and Brad Thor are welcome additions to the UK’s thriller market.
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