Following the events of Campbell’s last two novels, America’s Navy is severely depleted after a lengthy war with China. In the aftermath, Yuri Kalinin, the Russian president, decides to implement a dangerous and complex plan designed to take back part of Ukraine while also choking off vital sea passageways designated for moving oil and natural gas around the world.
On board the K–456 Vilyuchinsk, captain Dmitri Pavlov orders his crew to launch twenty-four P-700 Granit surface attack missiles at the USS Theodore Roosevelt, severely damaging the American aircraft carrier.
After the Office of Naval Intelligence confirms that the missiles were launched from the Russian submarine, the American president summons the Russian ambassador to the White House. Forgoing the Oval Office and opting instead to meet in the Roosevelt Room, the president and his advisors listen as Ambassador Tupolev explains that the entire ordeal was nothing but a training accident.
After Russia takes the blame and apologizes to the American people and government, they offer to pay a large sum of money to the families of any crewmen killed during the “training accident.”
Having attacked the USS Roosevelt as a way to test the American president, Kalinin believes the Unites State’s response is weak and an indication that they aren’t in any hurry to engage in another war. With that, their plan goes full steam ahead.
Things take a turn, though, when America–after learning of Kalinin’s hidden agenda–strikes Russian forces near Iran. With the lines clearly drawn and everyone’s intentions finally on the table, the gloves come off and things escalate in a hurry.
While the principal cast is quite large, Campbell does a fine job alternating narratives and advancing the plot through multiple points of view. Whereas the president is normally a prominent player in similar types of thrillers, Campbell’s fictional commander-in-chief takes a backseat to his team of advisors, including National Security Advisor Christine O’Connor.
While the chess match between America and Russia is compelling, the real treat is Campbell’s many thrilling action sequences. Nobody is writing more detailed submarine scenes than Campbell, who knows just how much information to provide without bogging down the story.
Blackmail is fun, smart, and wildly entertaining. After three solid novels, Campbell delivers his strongest naval thriller so far, expertly mixing action and geopolitics in a way that is strikingly reminiscent of the late Tom Clancy.
Author: Rick Campbell
Series: Trident #4
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Book Spy Rating: 7/10