Verdict: John Leifer offers an exciting new take on the “American hero saves the world” trope with THOU SHALL NOT KILL, a taut, and at times terrifying, military thriller.
When the nation of Israel sees their greatest enemies begin to coalesce they call on their greatest ally, the United States, for preemptive assistance. When the U.S. sees what the enemy coalition is capable of, they call in their top agent, John Hart, to spearhead a mobilization in an attempt to keep the Middle East from total devastation.
International tensions are high in a world in which even the U.S. has of late gone through a fatal biological terrorist attack and a nuclear detonation in the heart of New York City. So when Israeli intelligence detects evidence of a secret meeting of what’s being called the Syrian Coalition–Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Russia–the entire world takes notice. Fearing that a collective strike on Israel is the intended purpose of the meeting, Israel and its allies prepare for a worst case scenario that involves the first use of nuclear weapons in over seventy years.
Being chief among these allies, the U.S. offers a twofold plan – a ground and air game to neutralize the coalition’s fighting forces coupled with diplomatic detente with Russia in order to keep that nuclearized superpower from too eagerly jumping into the fray. Heading the U.S. operations is former Navy SEAL and CIA agent John Hart. His recent involvement in the biological and nuclear attacks on U.S. soil is apt preparation for him because not long after he arrives in the Middle East the bombing skirmishes escalate to Iran exploding a biological agent-laded warhead over Israel, killing thousands. Before Hart or any other calmer heads can prevail Israel responds with the previously unthinkable detonation of a nuclear device over Lebanon, almost completely wiping the region off the map. With the nuclear card thusly played all the other participants who are similarly armed pull a chair up to the table in a tense standoff in whose result lies the survival of the world. It falls to Hart and all his available resources to act on this standoff before the entire globe is engulfed in thermonuclear conflict.
Narratively, the overall intensity of this conflict is conveyed through Leifer’s staccato pacing and a spare voice that lends itself to the military posturing. Battle scenes are fired off with an immediacy like so many SCUD missiles and the off-battlefield detente machinations read like the best edge-of-ones-seat intrigues. As can be expected when novelizing American armed forces against the world’s evils, there is enough pro-American jingoism to keep the “God/guns/grits” readers enthralled, but this is balanced out by a meticulous attention to detail and craft that makes this alternate socio-political saga as believable as it is entertaining.
John Leifer offers an exciting new take on the “American hero saves the world” trope with THOU SHALL NOT KILL, a taut, and at times terrifying, military thriller.
~Johnny Masiulewicz for IndieReader