Kirk “Mac” McGarvey is spending his post-CIA director days teaching philosophy at Sarasota’s New College, a semi-private, ultra-liberal small school. It’s early March, following the presidential election, and Mac had just tasked his students with writing a lengthy paper on what Voltaire, the eighteenth-century intellectual, would have thought of the O.J. Simpson trial.
The murder trial — not the burglary one that ultimately led to him landing behind bars.
Just as class wraps up, one of Mac’s student’s — whom Hagberg describes as young people who know he manipulates them at times, but love it anyways — detonates a bomb using a cell phone.
Mac lives, but he’s injured. Later, he’s reported dead by the media, allowing him to move about without looking over his shoulder, since whoever attempted to assassinate him believes they succeeded. After spending seven days on his stomach allowing time for his severe burns and skin grafts to heal, the former youngest CIA director in American history sets out to find his former student, who may or may not be a North Korean operative, and unravel a conspiracy centered around the American president.
President Weaver, an obvious caricature of Donald Trump, is billed as a man who can “come across as a president who had no idea what he was doing, and never had.” Hagberg hits on Trump’s campaign promises, but his overdramatic flair reads more like a bad satire piece, reminiscent of Andrew Shaffer’s The Day of the Donald (2016). To be clear, the author’s political leanings don’t matter at all. It’s the execution here that misses the mark by a mile.
Eventually, Mac discovers that the attempt on his life is directly tied to a plan designed to overwhelm the new president in hopes that he’ll try to pull the United States into a nuclear war with Pakistan, China, North Korea, and Russia. Of course, according to the plan, Congress would step in and impeach him before a nuclear armageddon-like showdown actually happens. Believing he’s the one man who threatens their plan, Mac was targeted early — but now sets about to save the day for the umpteenth time in his storied career.
Overall, Flash Points feels like a poorly ripped-off version of the fifth season of 24, the Kiefer Sutherland-led television show that follows Jack Bauer (Sutherland) as he tries to stop a large-scale conspiracy that involves those around the president. Readers who enjoy this genre are used to and expect to suspend their disbelief, but Hagberg asks them to put aside all logic and common sense for this one, which is ironic when considering that Voltaire, of whom Mac is supposed to be an expert on, maintained that “common sense wasn’t so common.”
Even still, longtime readers of Hagberg’s series may enjoy following Mac — who is now about fifty years old — around for another three hundred or so pages. Also, Hagberg does nail technical details and displays a clear understanding of geopolitics. So while the execution of the plot itself is a mess, there are positives that pop up throughout.
Author: David Hagberg
Series: Mac McGarvey #22
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 4.5/10
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.