Thor, Brad. Takedown. New York: Pocket Books, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4516-3615-4.
This is the fifth in the author's Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010). In this episode, Harvath, an agent for a covert branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, completes a snatch and exfiltration of a terrorist bombmaker granted political asylum in Canada, delivers him into custody in Manhattan, and plans to spend a lazy fourth of July holiday in the Big Apple with one of his closest friends, a Delta Force operative recently retired after a combat injury. Their bar-hopping agenda is rudely interrupted by an escalating series of terrorist attacks which culminate in bridge and tunnel bombings which, along with sniper and rocket-propelled grenade attacks on boat and air traffic, isolate Manhattan from the mainland and inflict massive civilian casualties.

As Harvath establishes contact with his superiors, he discovers he is the only operative in the city and, worse, that a sequence of inexplicable and extremely violent attacks on targets irrelevant to any known terrorist objective seems to indicate the attacks so far, however horrific, may be just a diversion and/or intended to facilitate a further agenda. Without support or hope of reinforcement from his own agency, he recruits a pick-up team of former special operators recovering from the physical and psychological consequences of combat injuries he met at the Veterans Affairs hospital New York as the attacks unfolded and starts to follow the trail of the terrorists loose in Manhattan. As the story develops, layer after layer of deception is revealed, not only on the part of the terrorists and the shadowy figures behind them and pulling their strings, but also within the U.S. government, reaching all the way to the White House. And if you thought you'd heard the last of the dinky infovore Troll and his giant Ovcharkas, he's back!

This is a well-crafted thriller and will keep you turning the pages. That said, I found it somewhat odd that a person with such a sense of honour and loyalty to his friends and brothers in arms as Harvath would so readily tolerate deception among his superiors which led directly to their deaths, regardless of the purported “national security” priorities. It is indicative of how rapidly the American Empire is sliding into the abyss that outrageous violations of human rights, the rule of law, and due process which occur in this story to give it that frisson of edginess that Thor seeks in his novels now seem tame compared to remote-controlled murder by missile of American citizens in nations with which the U.S. is not at war ordered by a secret committee on the sole authority of the president. Perhaps as the series progresses, we'll encounter triple zero agents—murder by mouse click.

As usual, I have a few quibbles.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.  
  • The president's press secretary does not write his speeches. This is the job of speechwriters, one or more of whom usually accompanies the president even on holiday. (Chapter 18)
  • The Surgeon General is not the president's personal physician. (Chapter 42)
  • If I were rappelling through a manhole several stories into the bowels of Manhattan, I think I'd use a high tensile strength tripod rather than the “high tinsel” tripod used in chapter 59. Now if the bad guy was way up in a Christmas tree….
  • In chapter 100, the Troll attaches a “lightweight silencer” to his custom-built rifle firing the .338 Lapua sniper round. Even if you managed to fit a suppressor to a rifle firing this round and it effectively muffled the sound of the muzzle blast (highly dubious), there would be no point in doing so because the bullet remains supersonic more than a kilometre from the muzzle (depending on altitude and temperature), and the shock wave from the bullet would easily be audible anywhere in Gibraltar. Living across the road from a rifle range, I'm acutely aware of the sound of supersonic bullets coming more or less in my direction, and these are just 5.56 and 7.62 NATO, not Lapua “reach out and whack someone” ammo.
Spoilers end here.  

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