Featured Review: ‘Without Sanction’ by Don Bentley


Don Bentley, a former Army Apache helicopter pilot (and Bronze Star Medal and the Air Medal with “V” device for valor recipient) turned FBI special agent, kicks in the door to the thriller genre with this blistering, white-knuckle debut.

Matt Drake just wants to be left alone.

Three months prior, Drake, a former Army Ranger who later joined the Defense Intelligence Agency, barely made it out of Syria alive following a botched operation that left several people dead and his best friend crippled. In the aftermath, Matt—who’s battling severe PTSD and survivor’s guilt—vowed never to return.

In the present day, a Mossad asset in Syria learns that an ISIS splinter cell is planning an attack on U.S. soil using some type of devastating chemical weapon that’s being cooked up in a lab in Aleppo. Israel quickly relays that information to the CIA—who sends a paramilitary unit to hit the lab where the chemical agent is supposedly being developed and modified. Though the mission is initially thought to be fruitless since neither the weapon nor the mastermind behind it are recovered, things take a horrific turn when one of the operators involved in the raid dies from exposure after returning home to the states.

Worse yet, autopsy and toxicology results offer little insight into the chemical agent itself, which seems to kill without warning and leaves zero traces of foul play in its wake.

With his worst fears confirmed—that a new chemical weapon unlike anything the world has ever seen has, indeed, been created—American President Jorge Gonzales issues a finding directing to every member of the intelligence community to focus exclusively on determining the nature and location of the chemical weapon.

Days later, the US catches a break.

The scientist, codenamed Einstein, contacts the CIA and makes them an offer: If they’ll extract him from Syria, he’ll turn over the weapon he created along with other information, but there’s one catch . . . he’ll only trust Matt Drake to come and get him.

Instructed to “get your ass to Syria and do what you do,” Drake suddenly finds himself thrust back into the game and on his way to the very place he vowed never to return. But things are different this time around for Matt, who no longer has his partner and BFF to cover him. Broken and still reeling, Drake carries the memories of the dead with him, haunted by their faces as he struggles to return to the vicious operator he once was—the operator his country needs him to be again.

With the stakes at an all-time high, Matt Drake heads back to Syria to right past wrongs, and in the process, realizes that the only way to save his soul . . . is to go back to hell and save as many people as possible while there.

Don Bentley’s many years of experience bleed through the pages here as he pulls readers into the world of covert operators, shedding a light on the brave and selfless sacrifices these men and women make to keep their fellow countrymen safe. Matt Drake is a fascinating new character for so many reasons, whose makeup is as complex as the plot at hand. Left truly broken following his failed mission, Bentley projects those conflicted emotions beautifully, never sugar-coating the pain his hero carries or the demons that haunt him day in and day out. Drake isn’t Superman. He bleeds and messes up and has regrets like the rest of us, but he’s also courageous to his core, and he’s impossible not to root for.

Fast, thought-provoking, and filled with nonstop action, Without Sanction is hands-down the best debut of 2020 and a must-read for fans of Brad Taylor and Mark Greaney.

Book Details

Author: Don Bentley
Series: Matt Drake #1
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1984805118
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 3, 2020



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck 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.


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