When news gets around that the Taliban has unearthed a nuclear bomb, multiple countries race to secure the threat in the latest thriller from the writing duo of David Hunt and R.J. Pineiro (Without Mercy, 2017).
Opening in 1988 in the Kandahar Province, a Soviet airplane is shot down, and along with it, the tactical nuclear bomb it was carrying. A couple of decades later, in 2005, the Taliban finds the bomb buried in the sand. Though it’s severely damaged, they managed to rescue it from the clutches of the desert, then turn to al Qaeda — who have the contacts to make it happen — to help them repair it and make it ready to use in an attack.
As al Qaeda forces massage contacts in Saudi Arabia and the Russian Mafia, word of the recovered nuke quickly, but quietly, spreads through foreign intelligence services around the world, prompting a plethora of recovery operations from competing nations.
For the United States, it’s Col. Hunter Stark and his team of CIA contractors who get the call to travel to Afghanistan and secure the bomb, but little do they know that they’re only one of many sent for the same reason. Once on the ground in the region, Stark and his men close in on their objective, only to be met with friendly fire from allied NATO forces they didn’t expect to encounter. The bloodbath leaves Stark’s team nearly wiped out and with limited resources. Regrouping, Stark gets his remaining operators back on mission, but the surprises are just getting started, and things only worsen when Russia also decides to take action.
Smack dab in the middle of a storm of bullets, it’s up to Stark and his men, who team up with a group of Marines, to beat the odds to find and secure the nuke before the Taliban can use it or another enemy can get their hands on it.
While this book might have flown under the radar for most, diehard military thriller fans will want to take note. Hunt might not have the same name recognition as guys like Brad Taylor and A.J. Tata, but the story drips with battlefield authenticity, written by someone who has been on the front lines and knows what war looks like. The plot is both smart and complex, and the usage of real-life characters adds to the realism. That said, the plot does drag a bit at some points, and the structure and formatting are a bit questionable. While there are much more positives than negatives, even big fans of the genre may find themselves skimming pages that, frankly, could have been cut altogether to aid the pacing. A great sequence involving Laura Vacarro, an Air Force pilot who flies an A-10 Warthog, will score points with readers, and she’s sure to be a fan-favorite character.
Overall, Without Fear is a solid military thriller, catered to fans of that genre, with enough explosions and gunfights to keep readers interested from start to finish.
Author: David Hunt and R.J. Pineiro
Series: Hunter Stark #2
Pages: 528 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0 /10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) 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.