Oil prices are at historic lows, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to do something about this in David Joseph’s curious little novelette. The idea is to attack shipping and infrastructure at several Persian Gulf chokepoints, laying the blame on ISIS and Iran.
Joseph’s fictional Putin is portrayed as every bit as devious and unscrupulous as the genuine article, casually ordering the murder of his enemies, or even of people who just know too much. He also likes to give away watches, knives, and other expensive baubles, again like the real Putin. Using an actual world leader as the protagonist in a series of thrillers gives this a nice touch of immediacy.
Joseph provides an interesting cast of supporting characters, particularly among the naval Spetznaz operators tasked with carrying out the clandestine attacks. These are interesting people, and not just types. Their dedication to duty is portrayed as both praiseworthy and, when you consider what they’re doing, a little frightening. It’s hard not to remember that there are real-life counterparts to these people who would carry out even blatantly illegal operations such as these without a second thought, so long as it was framed as their patriotic duty.
This is a good story, well told, and leaves the reader wanting to see what comes next in this series.