“The First Order” by Jeff Abbott is a very realistic thriller. This action packed, fast paced story centers around an assassination plot. But the sub-plot is also very interesting, as it explores the relationship between brothers. Abbott successfully uses the storylines of previous books and ties everything together in this fifth Sam Capra novel.
The stage is set from the very first page with the quote by William Shakespeare, “There is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar … security gives way to conspiracy.” The plot has an assassin becoming part of the Russian inner circle that is close to the president, Dmitri Morozov. As with Caesar’s assassination, the killer wants to get up front and personal with the Russian president; yet, able to disappear, and live to enjoy his $20 million payday.
“I love Shakespeare,” Abbott said. “I had put little nods to ‘King Lear’ in my last book, ‘Inside Man.’ For this plot I wanted to bring something new and refreshing to an assassination story. I decided this novel is not going to be about the lone wolf striking from a distance like in the magnificent novel, ‘The Day Of The Jackal,’ which cannot be proved upon. In this book, the Russian President is surrounded by an inner circle that reminded me of Julius Caesar. I wanted the leader brought down in a place he feels safe, surrounded by people he thinks he can trust. I based it on the real Oligarchs in Russia who are very powerful and understand they can lose their power at the whim of the President. I like to joke they do not have an MBA but a KGB.”
The other side of the story is a family affair. The first Capra novel, “Adrenaline,” has Sam altering his life after watching his brother Danny supposedly killed by terrorists in Afghanistan on a video. His brother’s death defined Sam who then decided to became a CIA agent and later an avenger of wrongdoers. But after Sam finds out that his brother could actually be alive and has become a contract killer, he recognizes his mission must be to stop Danny from assassinating the Russian President, or the global repercussions could change history. Not one to conform to the rules he knows that to find his brother he must depend on human intelligence, as well as Mila, his partner, who he respects and has an unbreakable bond. He realizes that just using digital intelligence, computer hacking, or satellite imagery will not be enough to accomplish this mission.
Besides this riveting plot the characters are very well developed. One of the enjoyable features of Sam is that he is a flawed hero. Throughout the book he makes mistakes, which sets him back. Abbot described it as “winning the war and not each battle, because that is what life is about.” In many ways Sam is an unconventional hero, including his cover of owning multiple bars around the world.
The bar idea was conceived by Abbott while doodling.
“I drew a globe and underneath that a martini glass,” he said. “Then I thought how creating Sam as a bar owner would be fresh and different. This allows him to have a legitimate reason to go around the world. I know my readers really like this idea because they will suggest neighborhoods, cities, and bars where Sam could own one. For the Russian bar in this book I looked on Google maps, Tumblr, and read articles written about the nightlife. Usually I go to the setting in which I give Sam an adventure in, but for this book I did not. Even though it is fictionalized it is critical of the Russian power structure and I did not want to cause problems for anyone who would have helped me while I was there.”
Abbott gave a heads up about his future book projects. His next book will be a stand-alone, a psychological suspense novel set in Austin. For the subsequent Sam book he has three possibilities, but all will include Mila, Sam’s sidekick and best friend. Abbott is even thinking about writing a book mostly from her viewpoint.
“The First Order” brings changes in Sam and Mila’s life. It becomes evident that Abbott wanted to shake up the series and has opened new possibilities for both characters. This espionage series has compelling stories and characters that keep readers on the edge of their seats.