As 'Scarecrow' Schofield watches his mission to eliminate a Siberian turn into a bloodbath, he realises he has been tricked -- and now become the prey rather than the predator. For a shadowy consortium of staggering power and wealth has included his name on a list of fifteen targets to be eliminated without fail by twelve noon that same day. Now every high-powered bounty hunter on the planet is on his trail, while he must simultaneously track down the perpetrators of a conspiracy about to reduce many of the major cities of the world to ashes.
From Arctic Russia to the Afghan border, to France's Atlantic Coast, to a speed-of-light conflict over the Suez Canal, every form of ultra-tech weaponry comes into play in a spellbinding action drama unfolding within a mere twenty-four hours.
Area 7; Temple; Contest; Ice Station fans of Reilly's novels know that no one writes faster-moving adventure fiction, so it's a shock to read, in an interview with Reilly included at the back of this novel, that he aimed to "create a new level of speed and pace" here. He has succeeded the text is all fury, akin to taking a James Bond film, cutting out everything but the action and running that at double speed. The plot is preposterous and secondary, a frame on which to hang one extraordinary fighting/escape scene after another. The world's greatest bounty hunters are offered, by a cabal of the world's richest humans, $18.6 million per head to bring to the cabal's headquarters in France the heads of 15 men. One of the heads belongs to U.S. Marine captain Shane Schofield, aka Scarecrow, hero of Ice Station and Area 7. It turns out that he and the other targets have the world's fastest reflexes, allowing them to disarm nuclear missiles about to strike an ability that can defuse the cabal's plan to launch nuclear attacks on major world cities, instilling chaos and creating a new international arms race for profit. Character, too, is secondary here, though Reilly does take the unusual step of killing off one major series hero. And even the traditional novel form is secondary in this entertainment entity; this is as much video game as novel, complete with meticulous diagrams of most of the many locales (a penal installation in Siberia; an office tower in London, etc.) and literary sound effects ("An ominous deep-seated thromming emanated...."). What's foremost, along with the action, is quick-cut entertainment: up to 20 paragraphs per pages, with some paragraphs running only one word, sweep readers from beginning to end. Reilly's admirers will love this one, and anyone interested in the outer limit of action writing should check it out; that the villains are headquartered in France should add to its populist appeal.