Hemorrhagic fever. Israeli spies. African revolutionaries. Secret organizations. Special ops. Malthusian philosophy. Mix these enticing ingredients together, add a dash of conservative ideology, cook on high, and the outcome is a summer thriller worthy of the genre. Nashville novelist Brad Thor has again tapped into the news of a frightened and increasingly paranoid world to create a seemingly implausible threat for his superspy, Scot Harvath, to overcome. But even a casual reading of today’s horror-filled headlines might cause a reasonable person to ask: is there any combination of dangers that doesn’t seem plausible today?
Scot Harvath follows an old-fashioned code of conduct in which the strong protect the weak. Raised by a Navy SEAL, Harvath followed in his father’s footsteps and then kept fighting bad guys in private practice. Thor describes this code: “There would always be people who needed the protection of others. True nobility came in offering the protection freely.” So when Harvath learns about a vicious attack on a charity-run health clinic in the Congo and is asked to investigate, he jumps at the chance. Harvath is also a danger junkie, a fact that is clear even to him. “He risked being shot, stabbed, and blown to pieces, all because he loved giving Death the finger as he sped on by.”
The risk this time is particularly high: “If it could go wrong,” Thor writes, “it would go wrong, especially in Africa. That went double for Congo.” And in fact things fall apart for Harvath within a day of his arrival: he’s soon fighting his way through phalanxes of rebel soldiers and almost as quickly finding connections between the clinic massacre and a powerful international businessman. There are dark forces at work, as usual, and Harvath and his crew are uniquely placed to counter a secret cabal’s attempts to remake the world. The clock really starts ticking when Harvath discovers that this particular cabal plans to gain dominion via murder on a scale that would make Stalin, Hitler, and Mao look like amateurs.
Thor moves his characters at speeds approaching that of light, and the action is classic-thriller style, filled with guns and gadgets. But Thor also makes no bones about his world view, which any reader will recognize as distinctly conservative. In Code of Conduct, the bad guys are out to expand the role of government. Renditions and enhanced interrogations save lives. America and Israel are natural allies, democracies under siege at home and abroad. The United Nations is at best incompetent and at worst.… Well, it’s best not to give away too much of the plot.
Thor is no mere conspiracy theorist, however. He is an expert on terrorism and security, and he has provided commentary on virtually every television network in America. He has also served on the Department of Homeland Security’s Analytic Red Cell program, helping devise threat scenarios for the U.S. government. In short, he knows of what he speaks.
Thor has stated that the plot of Code of Conduct was inspired by his reading of documents leaked by “one of the world’s most powerful organizations,” a fact which should give anyone pause. As frightened people have often asked, “Is it paranoia if someone really is out to get you?” The U.S. is in the crosshairs of any number of terrorist organizations and outlaw governments, and Thor believes it will take some dedicated, straight-shooting people to defeat their plans. His creation, Scot Harvath, is the model of a saintly warrior whose code requires him to be there, protecting the innocent by taking the fight to the enemy.
A Michigan native, Chris Scott is an unrepentant Yankee who arrived in Nashville more than twenty-five years ago and has gradually adapted to Southern ways. He is a geologist by profession and an historian by avocation.