cover image The Fourth War

The Fourth War

Chris Stewart, . . St. Martin's/Dunne, $24.95 (392pp) ISBN 978-0-312-28646-0

Stewart's experience as a fighter pilot comes into play in vivid flying scenes featuring the beautiful but tough-as-nails USAF Capt. Tai Lei, but the scope of his ambitious fourth thriller is much larger. The war in question begins with the murder of Pakistan's president and the theft of a cache of American nuclear warheads. The president and his brain trust respond while CIA paramilitary agent Peter Zembeic engages in a complicated search for the stolen warheads, even traveling through Afghanistan and later Tajikistan on horseback. In Stewart's hands, many of the novel's surprising details feel entirely authentic. The complex plot has al-Qaeda's fingerprints on it and, engineered by a character identified as the Great One, targets two dozen world cities for destruction. Along the way, the story spins through more than 20 locations, including Qatar, Oman, France, Syria and Kyrgyzstan. Predictably, the world is brought to the brink of destruction. But Stewart is impressively skilled at presenting the entire tapestry of his war—the many threads of the terrorist, allied and American forces—and should hold his readers' interest. (Oct.)