DECOY 17

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In this sequel to his accomplished debut novel, Spider 2-3 (2015), Vallier brings back rugged British army special forces operative Jim “JP” Peregrine, unceremoniously recalled from a well-deserved Caribbean vacation. Peregrine is alerted to more problems following the strenuous defeat of Iranian terrorist Barakah Malekka. Though Malekka’s genocidal Missile Spider 2-3 deployment scenario was stopped, the evildoer managed to evade capture, regroup, and initiate a backup second scheme called “Stingray,” which has already claimed the life of longtime operative Dave Tilsen. “Clearly, the job’s not finished,” Peregrine admits and, without missing a beat, shifts into high gear, investigating the killer behind the agent’s death and deciphering the scrawled message Tilsen left behind. A great race ensues between both sides as they try to retrieve a cellphone micro SD card, which emerges as the key to deploying Malekka’s international espionage plan. This entails a bevy of high-tech intelligence apparatuses like gamma-ray safecracking instruments, complex circuit boards, and an authentic-sounding, sophisticated “NextGen ADS-B” aviation navigation system that Vallier admits is derived from a real-life flight system (the author has a pilot’s license and extensive training). Globe-trotting from London to Rio de Janeiro, Peregrine and his crew struggle to outwit Malekka before it’s too late. In addition to the briskly written action sequences, Vallier excels at minor characterization, as in scenes in which Tilsen’s clever, older mother is interrogated by Malekka’s henchmen or episodes with Peregrine’s motivated, young, covert agents Stephanie Raughton and Anna Kepling. The two operatives not only demonstrate distinct talents for undercover work, but are also undeniably attractive, which they try to use to their advantage, with mixed results. As in his debut, Vallier employs a slick mixture of intrigue, dynamic action, and a complex plot without excessive violence or gore to keep the pages turning. There’s a swift, satisfying conclusion, which, to fans’ benefit, leaves the door open for future adventures.

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