Mark Greaney, a surrogate who writes Tom Clancy novels, writes a really good mystery, but it would be even better if he didn’t get bogged down so much in mundane details and emphasized instead, only the thriller’s action packed moments. All of the books in the Jack Ryan series have several competing themes working concurrently. In this, one theme is the ISIS terrorist goal of creating havoc and bringing death to America, which would be a great recruiting tool, as well. The other is to force the United States to enter into a ground war with ISIS in the Middle East, where oil is a major source of income.
An ex-con, Alexandru Dalca, harbors a grudge against the United States for its part in placing him behind bars in Romania, for swindling Americans out of thousands of dollars. He now works for ARTD, a Romanian company run by Dragomir Vasilescu. The company is working for a Chinese client, the Seychelles Group. They engaged ARTD to obtain the files of American spies from software they provided. The software was obtained from a company in India. On his own, Alexandru (Alex), an expert in technology, discovered a back door into that program which allowed him to obtain information on every applicant to the United States government since 1984, and with the help of social media, he was able to figure out where an operative was at a particular time and was able to arrange to take them down. No one else even knew about the virus that had infected the software program which allowed his hacking to take place. He wanted revenge and this information allowed him to not only satisfy his hatred, but to grow rich in the process. He packaged the information and sold it to the enemies of America. Alex felt no remorse about the death and destruction he was arranging.
On dark web sites, Alex engaged with a Saudi who wanted to instigate a war between ISIS and the United States in order to raise the price of oil. Sami bin-Rashid purchased information from Dalca and passed it on to a Yemeni, Musa al-Matari, who was an ISIS operative. Musa al-Matari did not fully understand the motives behind the Saudi’s efforts, but he had his own goals in mind. He was fighting for the establishment of the Caliphate. He recruited and trained the assassins; he believed these terrorists would not be traced because they had no prior record or flags against them. He then began to carry out random attacks in the United States.
At first, the experts were confounded. They had no idea where the leaks were coming from that were compromising the personnel, causing death and destruction in seeming unrelated places. They had no idea why particular individuals were even being targeted. They had difficulty connecting the dots, but then, Jack Ryan and the Campus become involved and the mystery unraveled step by step.
First they had to discover where the leaks were coming from. Then they had to find out how they were being dispersed. Then they had to find those behind these heinous efforts: the hacker with the information, the Saudi providing it to the terrorist, and the ISIS thug who was recruiting and training the assassins.
The book was exciting, if not always believable. There was no place in the book for a naïve reading. Terrorism is alive and well in the world today; the subject is current and the effort and methods used to find the culprits seemed authentic which was evidenced by the apparent research and knowledge of the author on such matters as the workings of government, the existence of innovative new technology and weaponry, and the depths to which a terrorist would go to accomplish his goal. The narrator was wonderful as he created just the right amount of tension and interest to keep the reader involved without himself becoming a character.