A Book Spy Review: ‘The Fourth Horseman’ by David Hagberg


Fourth Horseman Hagberg.jpgThe Pakistani government is unstable, which is of great concern to American officials due to the simple fact that Pakistan has a rather large nuclear arsenal. Should the Islamic terror groups overrun President Farid Barazani’s administration, they would have the means to strike a devastating blow to their enemies, which includes the United States. 

In an effort to help Pakistani officials find a way to keep their government from dissolving, the CIA has sent an expert by the name of David Haaris to meet with them and help find a diplomatic solution. Haaris, just thirty-eight years old, lands safely in Pakistan before entering a waiting vehicle that’s tasked with transporting him safely to his scheduled meeting. 

Inside the vehicle, Haaris transforms his Western appearance into that of a native Arab, complete with a long fake beard and dusty robes. A kaffiyeh draped around his neck hides a special device that’s fastened just above his Adam’s apple, which alters his voice from its normal, slightly British accent to one that is unrecognizable. 

Haaris’ parents died when he was child. After that, his uncle moved him around until he ended up in London, where he studied in public school. The other kids weren’t kind to Haaris, and they’d taken to calling him names such as “rag head” and “Islamic whore.” So it was at a young age that Haaris began to develop hatred, which would only intensify throughout the years.  

The American government had no reason to suspect that Haaris was privately a radical jihadist. So while the CIA sent him to aid the Pakistani government, that isn’t why Haaris went along. He went willingly because he had a plan, fueled by hate and rage, that nobody in the West could have possibly seen coming. 

The CIA believed that Haaris was captured by the Taliban. In reality, Haaris, who had slipped back into his regular clothing long enough to get an audience with the Pakistani president, was fine and well. During a private meeting with President Barazani, Haaris pulled a pistol from his bag and shot the man in the forehead. 

Slipping back into his Arab attire, Haaris produced a machete-like blade and hacked Barazani’s head clean off his shoulders in one fell swoop. Fitting the voice changer once again beneath his kaffiyeh, he presented himself to the people of Pakistan. Speaking to a large crowd and broadcast throughout the region, Haaris claimed to be the Messiah. People cheered as Haaris delivered his speech, which he ended by tossing Barazani’s severed head onto the street below. 

After returning to his normal clothing and stashing his “Messiah” outfit into his sack, Haaris called his handler at the CIA and claimed to have escaped from the Taliban. The American airplane and flight crew were put on notice, and Haaris made his story more believable by having a fellow jihadist rough him up a bit. Of course, the jihadist took it a bit too far, knocking out several teeth and breaking a few of Haaris’ ribs. But he was alive, and showed up to the airstrip in pain but without any life-threatening injuries. 

While Haaris had been on the ground in Pakistan, President Charlene Miller was back at the White House listening to her advisers explain that intelligence reports suggested the Taliban had stolen at least one nuclear weapon from the Pakistan government–who was actively moving their warheads around the country.

The general consensus had been that the Taliban didn’t have the capability of detonating a nuke, even if they had successfully stolen one… when reports suddenly flooded in detailing an explosion in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. 

Did the Taliban just detonate the nuke to send a message to the world? Something like, we have the nuclear warheads and we’re absolutely capable of detonating them? And if so, what was the so-called “Messiah’s”plan moving forward?

With little resources on the ground–thanks to a stream of steady budget cuts imposed by Congress–neither the CIA nor any other government agency had the manpower currently in place to find the answers they so desperately needed. With no time to waste, and a bevy of questions that needed answering, President Miller summoned ex-CIA Director and legendary spy Kirk McGarvey to the White House. 

In no time at all, McGarvey suggests that the “Messiah” was using a voice-changing device to hide his identity from them because it must be someone the United States government knows. An analyst with the CIA believed they could revert the altered voice back to its original state, but it would take a while. In the meantime, McGarvey was tasked with assassinating the Messiah, code named the Fourth Horseman, before a nuclear war started in the region, and around the world. 

My Thoughts

There’s a lot of moving parts to this story, and the hero (Kirk McGarvey) doesn’t even appear until page sixty-five. That’s a pretty long time to not introduce the protagonist, but in fairness to the author it was clear he was trying to flesh out the antagonist first. However, there’s some slow parts during those pages before McGarvey appears–and thankfully the pace does pick up considerably once he’s involved. 

The Fourth Horseman is a geopolitical thriller in every conceivable sense of the word. The American president, Charlene Miller, is strong on certain issues like immigration, creating jobs, and health care. But she struggles when it comes to sending troops into battle. Clearly, as the situation with Pakistan escalates, Miller is out of her element. 

Haaris is a fascinating bad guy, with many layers that are eventually peeled back to show his motives and what drives him. I found him easy to hate, which is always a good sign when we’re talking about bad guys! 

Honestly, I expected this book to be similar to Joel C. Rosenberg’s novel The Twelfth Imam (2010), but it wasn’t. The Fourth Horseman is a different take on things entirely, but a good example of why the situation in Pakistan should be monitored closely. It’s a solid thriller and everything we’ve come to expect from the author–vintage Hagberg from beginning to end. 

Book Details:

The Fourth Horseman is David Hagberg’s nineteenth novel in his bestselling series following the adventures of Kirk McGarvey. The twentieth book, titled End Game, is set to be released this summer. 

Author: David Hagberg

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

Publisher: Forge Books

Release Date: February 23, 2016

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