Fans of military-related “search and destroy thrillers” will find Warning Order bristling with action and chilling suspense. This second novel by Joshua Hood, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division, picks up the adventures of Mason Kane, falsely accused of traitorous activity in Clear by Fire, Hood’s first book. In this novel Kane is again on the ground supporting a secret “Black Op” surgical strike, this time with the aim of taking out jihadist terrorists metastasizing from the Syrian civil war into Iraq with the goal of establishing an Islamic state. Owing to intelligence leaks, however, the operation turns into a trap and a disaster.
Kane is a brave, resourceful, and effective operative, but he doesn’t know about a plot by the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor—with the support of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—to force the president of the U.S. to commit overwhelming military power to the cause of crushing the jihadists. America may be “finally learning that there was absolutely no way it could kill its way out of this war, but that didn’t mean the United States wasn’t going to try,” Hood writes. The plotters recruit double agents to disable a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Straits of Hormuz, expecting the American public to demand a full-scale retaliation in response. But the treachery gets out of hand and the carrier sinks, resulting in an overwhelming loss of American life.
In Warning Order, the complex layers of conflicting ideology and politics at the top filter down through the chains of commands and into the ranks. Nobody can trust anybody and dare not reveal what they know, if anything, to anybody else for fear it may get into the wrong hands. Impromptu torture—and there is a lot of it—may or may not wring out secrets. Interagency plots and counterplots abound. Treachery mixes with personal animosities at many levels, and heroism, dedication, and loyalty combine with vengeance, unspeakable brutality, and violence. The narrative twists and turns will surely keep the most dedicated computer gamers challenged.
Fans of military and spy hardware will also be engaged. The range of guns, grenades, rockets, missiles, bombs, and other weaponry employed by the modern military is staggering. Radios, GPS locators, satellite telephones, night-vision viewers, and related equipment are integral to operations too. And of course various types of helicopters and other specialized aircraft are also essential, as is the equipment carried by individual fighters. Hood’s experience has made him familiar with the hardware of war and its use.
To a civilian, this intimate look at military-spy operations can be disturbing. Readers need a strong stomach to handle the graphic gore here, including “the scent of burning blood.” Practically everyone endures deafening noise, long periods without sleep, and various battle injuries. As in old Westerns, intense personal animosities lead to frequent, brutal fights from which combatants seem to recover surprisingly quickly. Everyone smokes or chews tobacco and uses language that would shock their mothers, though there’s no sex, shocking or otherwise. As in many war books, readers must accept military jargon and references without attendant explanations as there is no time in this kind of fast-paced narrative to bring the reader up to speed. Aficionados of the genre wouldn’t need it anyway.
Ralph Bowden, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, has worked as an electrical engineer, history professor, home builder, alternative-energy consultant, and technical writer. A former resident of both Knoxville and Chattanooga, he lives in Cookeville.