Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan series continues to exceed my expectations when I recently read Daughter Of War (released – 2019) and experienced a remarkable spy classic of our era. With a keen eye for detail, complex web of plots, humanized yet fun characters, international intrigue, emotional and psychological depth, tactical gear and tech, and the use of real world conflicts in this brilliant story, I now wish I’d read this book sooner.
Like most Brad Taylor books, there are a lot of plots going on simultaneously from the beginning from many different sides but all seemingly connected. The DPRK(North Koreans) have created a chemical weapon labeled after the mythically fabled WMD – Red Mercury. The weapon is just a form of Sarin Gas that becomes harmless after an hour of being dispersed into the atmosphere. That one hour in a crowded location has a deadly potential, enough to attract terror groups and all sorts of troublemakers, though the North Korean’s plans are more complex and layered with disastrously deceptive objectives.
The main protagonist of this book (while still being in the Pike Logan series) is a thirteen-year-old Syrian refugee named Ameena who’s made her way to Morocco with her younger brother and father after barely surviving and escaping the damage of the Syrian civil war. With her wits and her younger brother’s help, she spends her time pick pocketing the tourists in order to afford their food. When she accidentally overhears a man’s phone call and understands that he’s working for the Assad regime that destroyed her home and killed her mother, she goes on to steal his iPhone X. This happens soon after the Syrian intelligence officer is given the iPhone from DPRK’s agents, as it’s the key for a proxy terror attack staged with the Red Mercury.
This happens when Pike Logan and his TaskForce team (a counter-terrorism black ops unit) arrive at the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco to tail a North Korean spy whom they suspect of selling classified intel about the US to a Syrian Arab. Though the TaskForce team chase tails and don’t find anything serious, there are some fun moments of Pike’s disappointment about the reality of the Monte Carlo casino, which is very different from the charade he(and we) had experienced in the Bond movies.
Pike’s team is forced to coordinate with a CIA officer who’s only interested in advancing his career and damages the TaskForce’s operation by tipping off the Syrian, whom he thinks he’s running as his asset. This drives a wrench into the plot when the Syrian spy later tries to use the desperate CIA spook for his own profit when he plans to cut ties with all sides involved.
Another plot thread is the involvement of the Russian(State-owned) PMC, the Wagner Group, who are hired by the Syrian spy to find his stolen phone and eliminate everyone who has looked at what’s inside. These dangerous mercenaries, who are very well written, track down Ameena and kill her remaining family in order to get the phone. Now, alone and lost, she goes on the run, chased by the Russian mercs, which leads to the massacre of a whole police station in Morocco who were holding her captive for pick pocketing. Afraid and knowing that she and her phone will lead to the death of anyone who helps her, Ameena escapes Morocco to France, and then in a series of trains to Switzerland, to the same town where Pike and his team are in locating the Syrian spy. This is where the story spirals into a fresh place for the series and leads the plot to the suspense fueled, emotional, and action-packed ticking clock of the climax. The concepts, plot, and characters delved in this book is a ray of hope for this genre, which is surely not going stale anytime soon.
The use of cold war era nuclear bunkers around the Swiss mountains, now converted into warehouses with the same old fashioned Swiss security and secrecy, after the same kind of secrecy has left their banking system in the post 9/11 cracks by the international community, is a new concept which is used in many intriguing ways throughout this book.
The action, plot twists, technical details, real world intrigue, Pike and his team’s tenacious smarts, Ameena’s character arc, the humor, and the seriousness put together is a brilliant cocktail which shines a good light on the genre. While most thrillers are plot focused and lack consistent character development, this book excels in both, and brings a fresh change to Pike Logan’s life. Long time fans of Brad Taylor’s books and the Pike Logan series will find the Daughter of War to be one of the better installments to the franchise, while the book also works well as an entry point for new readers of the series. In an age of mass produced and lazily written, vast commercial market for thrillers, Brad Taylor’s Daughter of War is a smart, engaging, well researched on the ground level, freshly entertaining, and emotional thrill ride.