A Book Spy Review: ‘The First Hostage’ by Joel Rosenberg

Joel C Rosenberg
New York Times bestselling Author Joel C Rosenberg’s latest novel, The First Hostage, hits bookstores on December 29, 2015.


In many interviews, author Brad Thor has quoted his friend (and fellow author) Brad Meltzer by saying “a thriller writer’s job is to beat the headlines.”

While both Brad Thor and Brad Meltzer have been fantastic at beating headlines in their own bestselling novels over the years, I would argue that nobody has been a better headliner-beater than author Joel C Rosenberg.

Back in 2002, Rosenberg opened his debut novel, The Last Jihad, with a scene where Muslim extremists use an airplane in a kamikaze attack on the President of the United States. Incredibly, Rosenberg actually wrote that scene before 9/11.

It was for headline-beating scenarios like this that U.S. News and World Report coined Rosenberg a “modern day Nostradamus.” But the incredible predictions in his novels didn’t stop there.

Part of the central plot to The Last Jihad is Israel’s newfound discovery of oil. at the time, that idea seemed outlandish. Yet recently we’ve seen headlines such as “Potentially game-changing oil reserves discovered in Israel” from Fox News and other media outlets alike.

In his second novel series, beginning with The Twelfth Imam (2010), Rosenberg – who has written several nonfiction books as well – tells a story about a young CIA operative who uncovers a shocking truth about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. That series, which spans over three books, (The Twelfth Imam, The Tehran Initiative, and Damascus Countdown) deals with the realities and dangers that a nuclear Iran poses to both Israel, and America.

Most of the questions surrounding the central plot to that series, such as: should Israel launch a preemptive strike on Iran, are currently being analyzed by talk show hosts across the country. It’s debated in congress too, as part of the nuclear agreement America has entered into with Iran.

Rosenberg had already proven to have his finger firmly on the pulse of world events and geopolitics long before this year’s book came out. Yet in January, with the release of The Third Target, Rosenberg once again seems to have peered into his crystal ball and seen events before they actually happened.

The First HostageNew series

The Third Target (released in January of 2015) was the first novel in Rosenberg’s new series about a New York Times reporter who chases a story about ISIS. J.B. Collins sets out to confirm a rumor he’s heard suggesting that the terrorist group smuggled weapons of mass destruction out of Syria, and he’ll stop at nothing to get the scoop – including sneaking into Syria to meet with the leaders of The Islamic State.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read The Third Target, but plan to, skip the next potion of this review. If you plan to read The First Hostage without reading The Third Target, or if you’ve already read The Third Target, proceed ahead!

Eventually, Collins learns that ISIS did in fact obtain the very weapons he’d heard about, but his warning is ignored by most of the world – including his own country.

A peace summit in Jordan is attacked, and Collins narrowly escapes with his life. In the final moments of the novel, J.B. calls his editor back in New York and announces that the president of the United States, thought to be safely under the protection of the Secret Service, is in fact missing – ending the novel with a massive cliffhanger.

The First Hostage

The First Hostage picks up just seconds after where The Third Target ends, thank goodness, thrusting the reader into immediate nonstop-action.

Collins in on the ground in Jordan talking to his editor, giving him a rundown of everything that’s just happened since the surprise attack by ISIS. From there, J.B. is invited by the King of Jordan into a secure military bunker, where he’s given exclusive access to cover all the events as they unfold, including the search for the American president.

Collins soon discovers that he doesn’t quite have the freedom to report on whatever he wants, as he’s subjected to censorship from the Jordanian government. While not a fan of censorship, he makes do with what he has. That is until a twist in the story flips things upside down, shaking Collins to his very core.

Rosenberg keeps the reader engaged with excellent pacing and an explosive story. Just when you think you have things figured out, he leads you down another path in a totally different direction. Everything leads to a fascinating final quarter of the novel that puts J.B Collins, and the reader, on the front lines of the battle against ISIS.

The First Hostage is one of the final must-read novels of 2015, and a rip-roaring thriller that dares you set it down because it knows you won’t be able to. I absolutely loved this book, refusing to go to sleep until I had it finished.

Best of all, while it’s definitely a book for adults because of the content, there’s absolutely nothing in this novel that wold keep me from handing it to my teenage son or daughter. There is no swearing or sexual content, and the scenes that are slightly disturbing (one in particular, as Rosenberg accurately captures just how vile members of the Islamic State actually are) aren’t over the top or especially detailed.

With his history of beating headlines, if you want an idea of what future attacks from ISIS might look like, read this book from the guy who had The Islamic State figured out before anyone else – Joel Rosenberg!

To pre-order The First Hostage, click here.

Book Details

Author: Joel C Rosenberg

Pages: 448 (hardcover)

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishing

Release Date: December 29, 2015




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