Featured Review: ‘First Strike’ by Ben Coes

First StrikeWhat if America accidentally created her biggest enemy? That question is the basis for Ben Coes’ latest Dewey Andreas novel, titled First Strike

Through a series of flashbacks, Coes takes the reader behind the scenes of two secret meetings. One takes place four years ago in the presidential palace in Egypt. The other is six months after that, in the back room of a popular Washington, D.C. steakhouse. What follows is one government official’s attempt to control Islamic terror groups in the Middle East by hand-picking a man to lead a new group that will secretly work with America behind the scenes–under the condition that they’ll leave the United States and her allies alone.

In the present day, things go terribly wrong.

After secretly receiving money and weapons, which were supposed to be used to destroy other terrorist organizations (like Al Qaeda) on their way to establishing a Muslim country, the world instead watched as this terror group became the most savage and barbaric of them all. One American, unbeknownst to his country, had made a deal with the devil–and as a result, ISIS was born.

When ISIS starts to run low on guns and ammo, their leader, Tristin Nazir, blackmails the government official (who secretly helped create them) into sending them one last very large weapons shipment. That’s where Dewey Andreas enters the picture, after the United States government catches wind of the shady deal.

Dewey heads to the Middle East, a part of the world he’s not all that fond of, to assist in an operation that at first glance seems simple enough. However, as often is the case with Coes’ novels, things quickly take an unforeseen turn as the plot unfolds.

What appears to be a victory for the United States and the rest of the world soon proves to be just the beginning of an even bigger crisis. ISIS isn’t going to just lay down and accept that their weapons shipment isn’t coming. Instead, they launch an operation designed to twist America’s arm into giving them exactly what they want.

An ISIS terrorist cell takes control of a Columbia University dormitory, holding hundreds of students hostage. They issue a demand, and vow to execute one student for each hour they are made to wait for their weapons shipment. To make matters worse, it’s revealed that the daughter of a high-ranking government official is currently among the students being held at gunpoint. 

And just like that, a bad situation went to worse, then morphed into impossible

Whenever someone pushes the panic button, Dewey Andreas is the man who comes running to save the day. This time, though, the odds are stacked against Dewey more than ever before. The entire ordeal is a game of impossible decisions. Do you give ISIS the weapons they’ll need to conquer the rest of Syria and other parts of the Middle East, to save the lives of a few hundred college students–or do you refuse to hand over the weapons no matter what, even if it means letting ISIS behead the innocent students one by one?

Like I said, it’s an impossible situation. It’s also terrifying, considering that none of what Coes wrote seems to be outside the realm of possibility in Today’s world. Anyone paying attention to the current headlines around the world knows just how capable ISIS is of these types of inhumane, vile and barbaric actions.

First Strike, which is without a doubt Coes’ best book yet, is a heart-pounding thriller that is impossible to put down! 

Why I loved it

Of all the big-name protagonists in the political thriller/spy genre, Dewey Andreas is the largest in stature. He also has the best sense of humor. I love his jokes, which are so terribly timed that nobody but the reader ever seems to appreciate them. Then again, Dewey, at 6’4″ and 250 pounds, is a giant man capable of breathtaking brutality. So while he’s funny, he’s also nothing to laugh at.

While I’ve enjoyed all of Coes’ previous novels, I personally thought last year’s Independence Day was a tad unoriginal for an author of his considerable talent. I was especially disappointed with the way it ended, and was beyond thrilled to see that he tied up those loose ends in a surprisingly satisfying way early on in this book.

To that point, this book reminds me a lot of Protect and Defend, one of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp novels, which opened with Rapp tying up a loose end from the previous book. Additionally, Flynn’s novel  is filled to the brim with action and shifting story lines, which is also the case with First Strike–which gives the term “action-packed” a whole new meaning.

Some people will take issue with how ISIS was created in this book, because it may not be completely historically accurate. To that point I urge readers to just sit back and remember that this is a thriller novel, not a textbook.  Others will struggle with some of the lingo and terminology used during military and clandestine operations, of which there is plenty. But if you read the genre often, you’ll be fine.

Also, while some may find this book to be extremely violent and gruesome, I found it necessary to accurately portraying who ISIS is, and how they operate. That said, this book is not for the faint of heart. If you’re bothered by blood then there’s one scene in particular, involving a surgical operation, that might get to you. In the end it’s all worth it though, so even if you are a tad squeamish just push through it and hang on for the ride!

Why you should read it

Coes writes with the same precision and expertise that fans of Vince Flynn and Brad Thor have come to expect. Of all the books I’ve read this year, nothing has come close to the nonstop action that Coes has crammed into First Strike.  This book has it all, and then some. Buy it and read it, you’ll thank me later! 

Book Details

Author: Ben Coes

Pages: 480 (Hardcover)

Publisher: St. Martin’s press

Release Date: June 28, 2016 (Order now!)

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