No longer going by his given name, the CIA analyst who was known as Zac Miller is no more. Now, Jake Keller, a hardened, more experienced field operative, has emerged, no doubt forged through the adversity Zac/Jake faced in Ricciardi’s acclaimed debut, Warning Light (2018).
Now partnered with fellow veteran operative Kurt Roach, Jake’s latest mission takes him to Yemen. After being tipped off about a secret meeting of top al Qaeda leaders, CIA has tasked the duo with droning terrorist leader Mullah Muktar, courtesy of two screaming Hellfire missiles. Once they are in position and have confirmed their target, Jake and Kurt do just that, unleashing the airborne weapons only to watch in horror as someone else electronically seizes control of the missiles and diverts them to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where the yearly hajj is in full effect after millions of Muslims have traveled from around the globe to attend.
When the dust finally settles on Mecca, more than 3,000 Muslims are dead, as the rest of the world turns their attention to the country responsible—the United States of America.
As always, in any ugly or devastating situation where blame is being cast far and wide, a fall guy is to be had. Or, in this case, fall guys, as Jake and Kurt are subsequently blamed for the attack and disavowed by their country, who paints the two operatives as rogue agents. Still, other nations blame America, and jihadists begin raining violence on the US of A in devastating fashion in an effort to respond to the strike on their holy city.
Unwilling to turn his back on the mess before him, Jake sets out to stop WWIII before it officially starts—and goes searching for whoever is really responsible for hijacking their Hellfire missiles. After plowing through several stiff layers of misdirection, another country emerges as the likely culprit, but in order to save the day, Jake must first figure out how they accomplished such a feat, and what their endgame is . . . and, oh yeah, with millions calling for his head, he also has to find a way to live long enough to see his new mission through.
Warning Light was a special debut in that it featured a great plot that saw its hero, then a low-level analyst who was thrust into a mission that was said to be safe with little chance of danger, have to navigate his way around the world with no help in an effort to survive after the proverbial crap hit the fan. It was, perhaps, the first time thriller enthusiasts fell so quickly for an analyst since Tom Clancy introduced Jack Ryan. Now, much like Clancy did with Ryan (albeit more accelerated to be sure), Ricciardi has further developed his protagonist into a hardened, ass-kicking machine more in step with other genre darlings such as Mark Greaney’s Gray Man and Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath.
The jump from Zac to Jake isn’t nearly as confusing as it sounds (same person, for those feeling lost) and will make much more sense to those who read Warning Light, where the transformation, and reason behind it, is well explained in the book’s final pages. Personally, I like the change, because the “unlikely hero saves the day” trope only works so many times. By making Zac/Jake a badass who is capable of doing more in the field, Ricciardi has set himself up for sustainable success, which is great for readers, because now two books in, he’s proven to be a special talent.
Over-the-top action, a deadly conspiracy, and several well-timed twists make Rogue Strike another winner from David Ricciardi, who delivers two back-to-back fun, hard-hitting thrillers out of the gate.
Author: David Ricciardi
Series: Jake Keller #2
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10
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). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.