Without Sanction (Matt Drake Thriller Book 1)

Don Bentley

Berkley Pub

March 3rd, 2020

Without Sanction by Don Bentley is part spy thriller and part political thriller, combining espionage with military action.  In addition, the plot shows not only the infighting between agencies, but the infighting within agencies and cabinet positions.

In this debut novel, Bentley uses his personal experience to enhance the plot. Serving for a decade as an Army Apache helicopter pilot, while deployed to OEF, he earned a Bronze Star Medal and the Air Medal with “V” for valor. After his stint in the Army he joined the FBI, focusing on foreign intelligence and counterintelligence, and ending his career with the FBI as a member of their elite SWAT team.

“When I was in Afghanistan there was one mission that went wrong. I was the air mission commander for an operation to rescue four SEALs pinned down on a mountain top in Afghanistan in 2005. One of the helicopters I was charged with protecting was shot down. I examined what happened and broke it down into three phases.  Phase 1 had me thinking what could I have done differently.  Phase 2 had me wishing that I could get that moment back.  Phase 3 I had survivor’s guilt that I was alive and those I was supposed to protect are not. My protagonist, Matt Drake, wrestled with that also.  He is trying to seek redemption and atoned for something he thinks he inadvertently caused, the death of his asset and family.  Then he had to face his biggest failure by going back to Syria where it happened.”  

The main character in the novel, Matt Drake takes on some of Bentley’s thoughts.  After retiring as an Army Ranger Drake becomes an operative for the Defense Intelligence Agency, DIA. He is battling demons that include survivor’s guilt, PTSD, tremors, nightmares, anxiety, and depression. He became a broken man after his asset and his family was killed along with his best friend badly injured. Now he is assigned a mission to extract a chemical weapons expert, code named Einstein, who is believed to have created a particularly effective new poison. Having to return to Syria, where the botched operation originated, might enable Drake to live with his demons. The mission is expanded when the President asks his help in rescuing a paramilitary officer. 

“I worked in a business company that was staffed with those from the Special Service community, many from the Army Ranger regiment.  The Rangers have a creed that still means something, even when they are no longer serving.  It guides their life.  The Fifth Creed says that they will never leave a fallen comrade in the hands of the enemy.  I brought this to light in the story.  I think the government makes a bargain with those that serve and their family. Although it cannot guarantee that someone will come home alive; yet, they will come home one way or another.  This moved me so much, I made it the theme of the book.”

The sub-plot shows the petty political infighting within the highest reaches of government. The President’s Chief of Staff is angling to roadblock a CIA director who has political ambitions of her own, with Drake’s mission falling right in the middle of this elaborate political scheme. These exchanges between heads of intelligence departments and White House members created the feeling of playing a game of chess, where every move was strategic and tense. Readers see President Jorge Gonzales as someone who puts country over ambition and has to delicately handle the infighting. 

“I wanted contrast Matt with the chief of base, Charles.  Matt is a quiet professional.  A normal man who fiercely loves his country and has done exceptional things for it.  He is like the men/women at the tip of the spear risk their lives and most of the time do not have the spotlight and do not want to be recognized.  99% of the time the nation does not know of the job they did.  Just look at the WWII code breakers that no one knew about including their families until their death.  The opposite is the other side, people like Charles.  These people are only concerned about their careers. They could not care about the overall mission and only want to further their petty little kingdom.”  

This thriller has a lot of political drama, with Drake’s desire for redemption at the center of the plot. The debut novel shows how Bentley is a talented rising author. Readers should anxiously wait for the second in this new series.



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.