After introducing readers to black ops super soldier Michael Garin in his debut novel Target Omega (2016), Peter Kirsanow brings back his top operator for Second Strike, another fast-paced thriller ripped from the headlines.
After he and his teammates, all part of Omega–an elite, top-secret task force embedded deep in the special forces architecture and designed to prevent weapons of mass destruction–were targeted by enemy combatants, Michael Garin single-handedly thwarted a Russian plot to detonate an EMP device above America. Still, the mission came at a great cost to Garin, who lost his entire team when a skillful assassin picked them off one by one.
Now, several weeks after the events of Target Omega, Garin learns that the attack he stopped was just the beginning.
With the Omega team non-existent now that all the operators are dead, Garin takes time off and uses an alias to compete in a grueling physical fitness challenge known as the Crucible. Traveling with his trainer, Luci Saldana, Garin runs into two gunmen at their hotel. After taking out the would-be killers, Garin and Luci go on the run.
Unbeknownst to Garin at the time, an ordinary traffic stop in Georgia led to a mass shooting when the unknown driver killed three police officers and several citizens–each of them shot once between the eyes. Garin’s mentor, Clint Laws, has drilled into him that, in their business, there are no coincidences. Putting two and two together, Garin realizes something bigger is going on than meets the eye and enlists the help of his friend Dan Dwyer, who runs a huge military and security firm.
It turns out that the Russians had a backup plan involving sleeper cells ready just in case their initial efforts to detonate the EMP–which they had staged to look like the attack came from Iran–failed for any reason. Unfortunately for Garin, the same people who ignored his warning of the initial threat once again discredit his concern. Many in the American government think a second attack would be too daring and, frankly, too stupid. Even for the Russians.
Using Dan’s resources to stay off the grid while he goes after those planning the attack, Garin’s job is made infinitely more complicated and dangerous when it’s revealed that Russian assassin Taras Bor–the man responsible for killing Mike’s Omega teammates–is back in the States.
Peter Kirsanow definitely knows his way around an action scene, of which there are plenty in Second Strike. The story continues nicely on the foundation built in Target Omega, while at the same time remaining inviting to newcomers, who will feel up to speed quickly thanks to a recap of events written into the flow of the plot early on. The attack scenario and political elements mirror current news headlines, making this a timely thriller relevant to today’s news cycle. And the spy vs. spy element of Garin facing off with Bor–a very strong antagonist–makes for a fun, high-stakes game of cat and mouse.
If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that once again Garin is painted as a tad too perfect. Kirsanow goes a bit overboard at times explaining how awesome and skilled his character is, which really isn’t needed since readers can conclude what a great operator Garin is on their own. Moreover, by making Garin nearly indestructible and head and shoulders above the rest, it leaves little room for him to be challenged, subsequently reducing the amount of conflict and suspense that could otherwise be added in.
Overall, Second Strike is another very solid thriller from Peter Kirsanow, one of our picks for best debut author in 2016. Michael Garin is an intriguing new hero, similar in ways to both Jason Bourne and Ben Coes’ Dewey Andreas, while also bringing several unique elements that make him stand out from the genre’s other protagonists.
Plenty of action, a fearless hero, and a gripping plot that feels at times a tad too real for comfort–Second Strike is a fun, unrelenting action adventure that delivers all the goods.
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.