Author: Curtis J. James

Publisher: Copper Peak Press

ISBN: 978-0-9864303-0-5

Review of ARC copy

With High Hand and under the pseudonym of Curtis J. James, Curtis Harris, James Ellenberg, and James Rosen have combined their writing skills to foray into the thriller and espionage territory.

The yarn involves an intricate elaborate tale that transports us into Russia and the U.S.A with brief stopovers in Israel and Kazakhstan that involves the C.I.A's. meddling into a presidential race concerning a presumptive Republican nominee, Senator Stuart Roberts.

As the narrative unfolds there is an attempted assassination of Roberts while he is addressing the party's faithful at Pershing Square in Los Angeles. Covering the activities of Roberts is Frank Adams, a star reporter for the Los Angeles Register, who himself escapes serious injury at the event.

Several years prior to his entrance into politics, Roberts was a successful businessman as well as the U.S. Ambassador to Russia in the 1990s under President Ronald Regan. It seems that Roberts had been involved in secret business involvements abroad and lately he had been criticizing the Russians, accusing them of anti-democratic behavior.

Within a short time after the attempt on Robert's life, Adams receives a phone call from a fellow Russian reporter, Viktor Romanov, whom he had known from his Moscow assignment at the turn of the century. Apparently, Romanov was part of a weekly poker playing group that Adams had hosted seventeen years ago while he was posted in Moscow as a correspondent for the Register. The group also included Roberts, as well as other individuals whom we eventually discover will play crucial roles in the story's maze.

As news travels with lightening speed in the age of the Internet, Romanov had heard about the attempt to eliminate the White House candidate and he wanted Adams to fill him in on the details. Adams questions Romanov if he thought Russia could be involved in the attempted assassination. After a few seconds of silence, Romanov replies “People here are whispering about that. You know how we Russians love conspiracies.” What really caught Adams' ear, however, were the last few words uttered by Romanov when he indicated that Roberts recently had stopped in Moscow for three days after his trip to Israel. What is this all about and why was it never reported? This had taken place at the threshold of Robert's political career when he was eager to bolster his standing on national security issues. It should also be pointed out, that Romanov was investigating a huge scandal in Russia'where a considerable amount of oil revenue went missing and where they have been diverted was still a mystery.

While Adams meets with his editor Thomas Hawkes, who is his ex-father-in-law, as he was married to his daughter Lisa, he unveils a high tech device which is a state-of-the-art surveillance and interrogation tool.

The device is one of the the products of a company called IntelliView that was secretly underwritten by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and the CIA for more than fifteen years. A beta version of the device was loaned to Adams by Ken Nishimura, an executive of the company, who had been among Robert's original employees when he was involved with IntelliView.

To find out if the Russians were in fact involved with Roberts attempted assassination, Adams takes on an unusual reporting assignment where he is now going to use highly classified technology embedded in the high tech device and sneak into Russia under false pretenses with a fraudulent tourist visa. You will have to read the novel to find out how this plays out and what he discovers.

By the way, unbeknown to Adams, Hawkes is involved with the CIA and Lisa is a covert CIA operative and a Non-Official Cover (NOC) working with no protection from the U.S. Government. Hawkes also is part of a secret rogue operation called Operation Long Shadow where the ultimate objective is to make sure Roberts is elected President of the USA and consequently would be manipulated by the CIA.

This is quite a thriller propelled by a fluid narrative style filled with all kinds of clever decoys, political intrigue, geopolitcial issues and at times, conventional espionage. Readers will enjoy the suspense and unexpected twists of the story-line with enough real world information to make it all seem plausible with characters that are crafted with just the right amount of secrecy. Frank Adams is a strong well-drawn character and someone to root for as he goes about trying to find out who exactly is Roberts. Will he succeed and what will he discover? Will this prejudice his journalistic ethics? Can I expect a sequel?

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