While Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook might have moved away from the credo of ‘moving fast and breaking things’, characters in Eric Van Lustbader’ s latest edge of the seat thriller seem to possess no such inhibitions. Solely operating under the philosophy of ‘move fast, break bones and rip throats’, a deadly mix of downright dangerous human beings ranging from the bold to the barbarian combine to dish out a veritable feast for the afficionados of the genre of thrillers.
Evan Ryder, a field agent for a black-ops arm of the Department of Defense is taking a much deserved break in the islands of Sumatra after an exacting and deadly operation, when the world around her threatens to collapse with sudden intensity. She is forced to cut short her vacation after learning that her niece Wendy and nephew Michael have been abducted from the United States. There is absolutely no clue about the abductors since they seem to have disappeared like an evening mist. But not before neatly decapitating, the children’s father and stuffing a message inside his mouth. Evan realises with a sense of utter dread that this method of cold blooded killing is the calling card of a psychotic group calling itself Omega. Putting even the dastardly eugenics of Nazism to utter shame, Omega is a cult that is convinced that there is a need for a ‘global purge’ if mankind has to revert to the values and ideals propagated by Christianity. Ana, the demented head of Omega thinks herself as the contemporary Noah within whose Ark only the true believers would need to assemble while the rest ought to be put to the sword – literally.
In addition to contending with Omega, Evan also faces a new and extraordinarily dangerous predicament in the form of ‘Kobalt’ a ruthless and merciless cold blooded murderer under the employ of an ultra-secretive Russian intelligence arm. Deep within the bowels of the agency known as SVR of the FSB, there exists a Directorate termed ‘52123’. Embodying mythical hues and mystical colours, 52123 is a black hole even for a predominant part of the formidable Russian intelligence. Known only as ‘Zaslon’, the members of this outfit operate like the shadows of the night. Different from the spetsnaz, which is akin to the American Special Forces, Zaslon operatives are employed to execute ‘high-stealth’ operations.
As Evan and her longtime partner-in-crime, Benjamin Butler go about the arduous and deadly task of rescuing the kidnapped children, insurmountable obstacles manifest with a frequency that is discomfiting. The mission puts every single skill and technique gleaned and perfected by the duo over their professional career to the ultimate test. Every ally can be a suspect and a foe may yet turn out to be an unexpected, albeit welcome ally.
“The Kobalt Dossier” takes the reader on a roller coaster ride across continents. Beginning with a prosaic series of events that unfurl in South Dakota, the adventures of Evan Ryder and Kobalt pick up steam on the shady streets of Moscow, gather momentum in the teeming and throbbing markets of Istanbul, picking up vital pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in the verdant settings of Koln in Germany before finally culminating in a cataclysmic crescendo in the high mountains of Carpathia in Romania. As Benjamin Butler aptly reminisces in one of the passages in the book, the Carpathian mountains constitute the abode and haven of Dracula.
A one sitting read, as is the case with all the exciting novels emanating from the Lustbader stable, “The Kobalt Dossier” makes for a rousing read. Evan Ryder fans would not be one bit disappointed with their protagonist’s exploits and endeavours. What adds an extra element of ‘variety’ to the thriller is a dose of psychological mix. In addition to flexing her muscles, Evan is also required to bring the mental and psychical side of A game to the fore as her adversary is a master manipulator of the human mind. The passages involving this psychological interplay and subterfuge make for some extremely thought provoking reading.
(The Kobalt Dossier by Eric Van Lustbader is published by Macmillan-Tor/Forge Books and will be released on the 1st of June 2021).