Featured Review: ‘The Fox’ by Frederick Forsyth

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The Fox

With virtual crimes on the rise, a new breed of burglars has invaded cyberspace, replacing in-person, physical theft with the ability to siphon money from anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. But not all hackers steal money, opting to instead go after something much more valuable . . . secrets.

Iconic novelist Frederick Forsyth (The Kill List, 2013) opens his outstanding new thriller with Adrian Weston, the chief of the British Secret Intelligence, receiving a phone call in the middle of the night. On the other end of the call is the prime minister, who demands an audience with Weston at once, only to reveal a shocking development.

The impossible has happened. The Pentagon, the NSA, and the CIA have been hacked. On the surface, the three American agencies are supposed to be virtually impenetrable. Their firewalls are the best in the world, complete with an air-gabbed system that, until now, nobody has come close to cracking.

Interestingly, though the master hacker could have taken anything, including any number of sensitive information or classified documents, analysts back at Fort Meade confirmed that whoever breached their systems did so without stealing a thing. For unknown reasons, the hacker, who could have done an unprecedented amount of damage, simply didn’t. They destroyed nothing, sabotaged nothing, and are later described by Dr. Jeremey Hedricks, a renowned computer scientist on loan to British National Cyber Security Centre, as someone acting like a “curious child wandering through a toy store, satisfying their curiosity and then wandering back out again.” 

Three months after the initial hack took place, a team of black-clad Special Forces soldiers — comprised of British SRR, SAS, and SBS forces, along with two Navy SEALs — moved quietly through the night towards their target, a home identified by Dr. Hedricks as the origin of the security breach, expecting to encounter a serious physical threat from any number of enemy nations. Instead, they find an ordinary house occupying a quiet British suburb. The only trace of anyone having the ability to stage such a cyber assault is a makeshift computer room in the attic, which the family says is used by their oldest son, Luke Jennings, a quiet boy with Aspergers who keeps mostly to himself.  

Collectively, both the Americans and their MI5 counterparts are stunned to learn that “the Fox,” one of the greatest hackers the world has ever know, is an eighteen-year-old British kid with autism. Back in Washington, President Trump (who isn’t named directly, though his likeness is used, and even his own book, The Art of the Deal, is referenced) cuts a deal with the British, who fear the current commander-in-chief may go to war with anyone — including them — over such an offensive act. To stay on good terms with the United States, the prime minister agrees to the plan hatched in Washington to weaponize Jennings’ talents, using the cybergenius against their enemies.

However, in the process, Luke is suddenly thrust into the middle of a geopolitical nightmare, forced to play a high-stakes game he never wanted to partake in, going after Russia, North Korea, and Iran. . . while quickly becoming the most wanted person in the world, as those nations will stop at nothing to capture — or kill — the Fox. 

Frederick Forsyth does it again. For a story like this to work, the details have to be on point, and it’s clear that the author has done his homework as he breaks down how hackers work, often detailing their various methods and the different virtual traps they can set. Taking on the complexities of cybersecurity and putting things into layman’s terms isn’t easy. Whereas Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October left readers feeling like they could drive a submarine after the long, instruction manual-like descriptions, Forsyth finds a nice balance here (though readers may find themselves upgrading their virtual security and anti-virus protection after this one). The characters are developed nicely and the pacing is spot-on, ramping up in all the right places to create a nail-biting and satisfying final act that readers won’t soon forget.

While John le Carre dominated headlines with last year’s A Legacy of Spies, 2018 is all about the return of another all-time great. The Fox is just the kind of stunning, relevant, full-throttle story that thriller fans have been waiting for, and nobody delivers quite like Frederick Forsyth, one of the very best writers the genre has ever known. 

Book Details

Author: Frederick Forsyth
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 03525538429
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Son
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0 /10

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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.

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