“Ghosts Of War” by Brad Taylor blends humor, action, and history. Anyone who was a fan of the late legendary thriller author Vince Flynn should read Taylor, the heir apparent to the Mitch Rapp series with his Pike Logan books. The realistic scenarios, technology, and military operations keep the plot moving and insightful.
Asked about the humorous scenes the author responded, “Maybe because I am a smart aleck. While writing something might strike me as funny so I put it in the book. Regarding the believability, I make sure I always go back and answer every question. For example, when writing scene x I think why wouldn’t they just call the police? Another example, I can have Pike driving a car, reach for something and swerve into another lane. But, if I put that scene into the story people will say ‘how convenient.’ I always think of a good explanation for why the characters do what they do. I actually become a reader since every 100 pages I go back and reread the story to make sure nothing jumps out.”
He is also able to use his experiences to enhance the story. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army infantry, he served for twenty-one years, retiring as a Special Forces Lt. Colonel. While in the Delta unit he conducted operations in support of U.S. national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations.
This story begins with Pike and Company sidelined because the Taskforce, an illegal off the books group, has been put on hold. While on stand down, two Israeli contractors, Shoshana and Aaron, hire Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill to help find hidden items stolen by the Nazis. This part of the book uses history to formulate the fictional scenes as the heroes struggle to attain an ancient Torah. The backstory about the Nazi gold trains explained how the Jewish people were stripped of everything valuable: gold, paintings, wedding rings, and ancient artifacts while they were loaded into cattle cars.
Meanwhile Russia is trying to expand its influence under the guise of fighting terrorism by moving into Belaurs, a country in Eastern Europe on its border. Russian President Putin uses oligarchs and thugs, the Night Wolves, to create a diversion. Having an agenda of their own, they attempt to create a scenario that will cause World War III between the U.S. and Russia that includes shooting down an American aircraft. With time running out, and America demanding vengeance, Pike and his partner Jennifer enlist the Israelis to help them race to unravel who is involved before a point of no return is reached.
Fast checking this story: the Night Wolves are an actual motorcycle organization, thugs who work for Putin to stop any protests. Putin is trying to leverage countries for their natural resources. Unfortunately, many of the countries in Russia’s sphere of influence can by taken over without any risk of war, since NATO troops have been depleted. The main antagonist Simon Migonuv is based on a Russian oligarch, the head of a crime syndicate, influential in running the gas pipelines, who is on the FBI’s most wanted list, and has a passport from Israel. Regarding the Nazi gold trains, Taylor noted when he was in Poland doing the research he actually saw these tunnels that he speculates could have possibly been used to build super weapons.
All of Taylor’s books have a reoccurring realistic theme of how U.S. policy is determined by politics while citizens’ lives sometimes take a back seat. Quotes reflect this opinion such as when the taskforce commander, Kurt Hale states, “Politics trumps security every time,” and “Ignore what the damn politicians say. You’re the president now. Not a member of a political party.”
He explained, “The world is not black and white. During the crisis with Apollo 13 the effort was made to save three lives. Yet, if an individual hostage is taken as in the case in Syria there might be no effort to get them back, especially if it means risking war.”
As the series progresses so does Taylor’s character development. He explores the relationship between Jennifer and Pike, as well as between Shoshana and Aaron. Beyond that readers begin to understand that Jennifer is more comfortable in her Taskforce role and that Shoshana’s backstory has created the person she is today. These scenes are interesting, emotional, and sometimes funny as the characters banter lightens the intensity.
Taylor commented, “I was going to kill Shoshana and Aaron in the first book they appeared in, but I liked them so much I decided to keep them alive. In this book we understand why Shoshana was broken from day one. She looks up to Pike and Jennifer and in many ways wants to emulate them as she searches to find her way. She admires Jennifer for her moral compass and feels that Pike is a brother to her. Although Shoshana and Aaron will not be in my next book, ‘Ring of Fire,’ out in January, they will be the subjects of the short story, ‘The Target,’ out next year.”
“Ghosts Of War” is action packed, fast-paced, and gripping. With each book readers get to know more of the characters’ personalities, making the story more enjoyable to read. Not only will people have a riveting story, well-developed characters, some historical background, but will also enjoy Taylor’s pop culture references.