Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Author: Jeffrey S. Stephens
I hadn’t completed reading Jeffrey Stephens’ Rogue Mission before I knew one thing. I was going to download the previous Jordan Sandor books and get caught up on this fascinating series. My files now already include Stephens’ Targets of Opportunity, Targets of Deception, and Targets of Revenge.
Admittedly, it’s hard for any new espionage/political thriller to find a place in a glutted genre. But there are many good reasons to include Rogue Mission in your reading list. For me, field agent Jordan Sandor and the company he keeps, and the company he works for, are more three-dimensional characters than many similar literary counterparts. It was good to read a story without all the usual interagency turf wars that pit hero against his superiors, his department against other agencies. All the good guys seem to be focused on common goals without ego or self-serving pride. One delight was Stephens’ dialogue. Conversations sound like conversations and not merely means to explain what is going on. I liked the analytical intelligence shown in most of the leads. For example, Sandor figures out Bermuda law enforcement dropped the ball when investigating a death by not finding out whether or not a British doctor had actually written a suspicious prescription. That’s the sort of detail that’s not typical of many such yarns.
True, Rogue Mission is chockful of all the elements you’d expect in a contemporary spy thriller. There is a series of unexplained killings that don’t seem to have anything in common. The nasties are an Isis splinter group based in Syria who kidnap American celebrities and hold them for a hundred-million dollar ransom inside Iraq. There seems to be something unsavory going on inside the top levels of international high finance. Some readers might be surprised to learn not all Jihadists are suicidal. But there’s nothing surprising about these terrorists redirecting U.S. military drones. That’s been done before.
The most important secondary character is Sandor’s sexy past lover and CIA analyst Beth Sharrow. She helps connect the dots and find the patterns linking seeming unrelated financial trades with terrorist attacks. She has a desirable mind in the field, and so too a desirable body in bed. Apparently, she was a significant player in the previous Sandor adventures, so flashbacks involving her help add some depth to just who Sandor is and what his track record includes.
Naturally, in a novel with the typical geopolitical scope of such stories, we hop along on many globe-trotting jaunts to Washington, New York, Bermuda, London, Paris, Iraq, and Syria. We’re taken to Five-Star Hotels and luxurious receptions for the rich and connected and into dangerous camps for Syrian refugees. The descriptions of such settings is adequate, meaning readers won’t experience much in exotic detail that’s more common to other authors.
In short, Rogue Mission should satisfy readers familiar with this genre who’ll be happy with Stephens’ stylistic gifts with character interaction and fresh takes on old tropes. More, please—