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Robert Ludlum's The Arctic Event    by James Cobb order for
Robert Ludlum's The Arctic Event
by James Cobb
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2007 (2007)
Softcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Robert Ludlum's thrillers have been wildly popular for over two decades; many of his politically themed stories have gone on to become successful television and big screen mini-series or movies (note the recent success of Ludlum's Bourne Trilogy). His Covert One series first debuted in 2001 with the release of The Hades Factor (co-authored with Gayle Lynds). The book introduced readers to heroic Lt. Colonel John Smith, an infectious disease researcher eventually recruited into the highly specialized and secretive group of Covert One operatives who regularly step in to save the world. Ludlum may have authored only the first Covert One novel (the author passed away in 2001) but it's clear that his ideas, his influence and creativity are alive and well in this action-packed and intriguing series.

As The Arctic Event opens, Smith's warfare training exercises are interrupted by an urgent summons from his handlers. Canadian researchers have discovered the wreckage of a Soviet bomber that disappeared over the Arctic more than fifty years ago, carrying a large payload of weaponized anthrax. Smith, two fellow Covert One operatives, and Russian liaison, Major Gregori Smyslov, are dispatched to Wednesday Island to verify the find and, if necessary, neutralize what Smith believes could still be a viable biological threat. Unfortunately, a brutal international arms dealer has also learned of the bomber's existence and set his sights on obtaining its deadly cargo for sale to the highest bidder. Once Smith reaches the site, however, he discovers an even deadlier secret. He and his team find themselves battling not only very determined terrorists and deteriorating weather conditions, but also Russian special forces whose orders are to keep the bomber's true mission a secret at all costs.

Though James Cobb's plotting is not as intricate as Ludlum's, The Arctic Event has all the critical elements that die-hard thriller fans crave: plenty of action and political double dealing, bloodthirsty terrorists, a critical time frame, and a cast of larger than life protagonists, pushed to their limits but determined to save the day or die trying. In keeping with the covert aspect of the story, lead Jon Smith is, and remains, a man of mystery, but one who also displays vulnerabilities. His fellow operatives, both women, are very engaging, kick-butt heroines, particularly history professor Valentina Metrace, whose sardonic view of the world and deadly skill with weapons are real scene-stealers.

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