In his fourth Sniper Elite novel, Scott McEwen puts his most well-known character in the backseat, allowing other recurring and new characters to steer the story.
Chance Vaught is a former Green Beret turned special agent with the United States Diplomatic Security Service. While on a mission in Mexico, his primary objective is to keep Alice Downly, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, safe and out of harm’s way. But when members of the local drug cartel hold up their motorcade, Downly is left out in the open and vulnerable.
It turns out that the gang bangers were the least threatening force Vaught was guarding against that day as, unbeknownst to him, a lone sniper lurked high above and far away. Seconds later, Downly and the rest of the convoy are dead, leaving Vaught alive to answer for his failed operation.
Known only as the Ghost Sniper, this ex-military gunman contracts himself out to some of Mexico’s most notorious criminals and drug kingpins.
Left feeling guilty and full of regret, Vaught is damaged goods in the intelligence-gathering community, until CIA Director Robert Pope offers him a lifeline. Pope wants Vaught to track down the Ghost Sniper and smoke out any government officials that might have played a role in Downly’s assassination.
With Navy Master Chief Gill Shannon, McEwen’s most popular series regular, presumed dead after failing to make contact once his own mission went bad, Vaught teams up with a former Navy Seal named Daniel Crosswhite.
Together, Vaught and Crosswhite set out to kill the Ghost Sniper and uncover the truth about a government conspiracy. The problem with hunting a sniper, though, is that you’d better get close to them in a hurry because they can spot and kill you from one heck of a long ways away.
The hallmark of a good sniper is precision and accuracy. Unfortunately, this book misses its mark. Sloppy plotlines and unrealistic dialogue bog down what is otherwise a mildly entertaining military thriller.
Putting Gil Shannon on the sidelines opened the door to introduce and develop new characters but, by and large, those new additions were mostly flat and even boring at times. The opportunity for development was missed, as Ghost Sniper is a giant step backward from last year’s The Sniper and the Wolf (my favorite book in the series is still Target America).
What I did like was some of the action, as McEwen continues to write unique scenes that have a Hollywood feel to them. I just wish there was more of that and less filler, because while the high points of this book are fun, the low points occur far too often and really weigh down the overall quality of the story.
Then again, another characteristic of an elite sniper is patience. Readers who do wade through the turbulent first three-quarters of the book will be rewarded with a nifty surprise ending that might just be the strongest moment of the entire book.
While the Sniper Elite series is promising at times, it lacks consistency and compelling characters that readers can bond with and cheer for. I’ll definitely give the next one a chance, but was disappointed with this offering. Hopefully, McEwen will rebound next year!
Author: Scott McEwen and Thomas Koloniar
Pages: 405 (Hardcover)
Release Date: July 12, 2016 (Order now!)