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The Second Horseman    by Kyle Mills order for
Second Horseman
by Kyle Mills
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Second Horseman, Kyle Mills delivers a slick thriller, involving a brilliantly conceived and executed Las Vegas heist, nuclear warheads being sold by Ukrainian organized crime, a plan to purchase them to prevent their deployment, and a deeper Macchiavellian plot to use them in a draconian solution to the Middle East conflict.

It all starts - and continues to center on - Brandon Vale who is serving time for a crime he did not commit (though he is an thief of international renown). Vale is maintaining as low a profile as he can in prison when he's summarily ejected by a brutal guard and sent on his way with rifle shots. He's carefully manipulated - indeed, left without any other options - to meet with Catherine Juarez, an ex-NSA analyst who now works for (ex-FBI) security consultant Richard Scanlon. Scanlon in turn has been hired by the President's national security advisor, Edwin Hamdi.

Scanlon needs Vale, in order to steal two hundred million dollars, with which to purchase twelve tactical nuclear warheads from Ukrainians crime lords. He fears that they will otherwise be used against U.S. cities. (U.S. intelligence have decided it's a hoax and will not put up the cash to make the purchase.) In return, Scanlon offers Brandon plastic surgery and a wealthy retirement in South Africa after the job is done. Vale pulls of the heist, but then everything falls apart. Brandon and Catherine, who have begun to care for each other, end up traveling to the Carpathian Mountains and to the Middle East, where they do their best to prevent a new holocaust.

Though the characters lack depth, they are engaging - career criminal Brandon balanced by the more altruistic and definitely braver Catherine. The action moves fast, the Middle East commentary intrigues, and The Second Horseman's plot twists and turns so nicely that you can almost see a movie play before your inner eye.

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