cover image Joshua's Hammer

Joshua's Hammer

David Hagberg. Forge, $25.95 (405pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86128-5

Continuing the popular thriller series featuring Kirk McGarvey, CIA deputy director of operations, Hagberg (White House) revisits the threat of international nuclear terrorism. Allen Trumble, CIA chief of station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has a brief, disturbing audience with the oil-rich Saudi Arabian terrorist Osama bin Laden, in which bin Laden says he has acquired a portable nuclear bomb from the Russian mafia and wants to speak to someone more important in the CIA than Trumble, if he's going to negotiate a truce. Shortly afterward, Trimble takes his wife and two teenage children back to the States for a vacation. Trimble thinks they're safe in America, but the whole family is brutally gunned down by three Arab terrorists in the parking lot of Disney World in Orlando. Then McGarvey is sent to meet with bin Laden in his stronghold in the mountains of Afghanistan. After the terrorist directs his surgeon to remove a homing microchip surgically implanted in McGarvey's side, the U.S. president--mistakenly thinking that McGarvey has been murdered--orders a missile strike on the hideout, killing bin Laden's 19-year-old daughter. Continuing the volley of vengeance, the terrorist has his agents ship the nuclear device (called Joshua's Hammer) to San Francisco, set to explode just as the president's daughter, afflicted with Down's syndrome, is running in the Special Olympics across the Golden Gate Bridge. He also sends an assassin to kill McGarvey's daughter, a CIA agent in the Washington area. The first three-quarters of this promising action plot moves with good pace and intensity. The denouement bogs down in exposition, technobabble and banal dialogue, however, leaving even diehard readers struggling to stay awake for what should have been a heart-stopping finale. (Sept.)