Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Fog of War" by Ethan Jones

Fog of War
by Ethan Jones

Fog of War is an explosive spy thriller from #1 Amazon's Bestselling Writer, Ethan Jones, and the third novel in his popular Justin Hall series. 

Also available: Arctic Wargame (read my blog post), Tripoli's Target, Double Agents (read my blog post), Justin Hall Series Collector's Edition #1, The Interrogation: A Justin Hall Short Story, The Diplomat: A Justin Hall Novella Rogue Agentsand Thrilling Thirteen (read my blog post; contains Arctic Wargame and The Diplomat as well as 11 other thrillers). 

When an Iranian nuclear scientist wants to defect, Canadian Intelligence Service sends in its best agent, Justin Hall. After his mission is compromised and Justin barely escapes northern Iran with his life, he sets out to discover who has put him and the Service in grave danger.
CIA information about a traitor in the Service sends Justin into violence-soaked Somalia, where he quickly becomes ensnared in a web of lies and deceit. He’s left with no choice but to go rogue and form an alliance with Romanov, a sinister Russian oil baron.
Cut off from the Service, Justin is forced to navigate through ever-shifting alliances and survive deep inside a Yemeni terrorist stronghold. All the while, he’s being hunted by a traitor.
This tour-de-force spy thriller is the hottest page-turner of the summer. New and old fans alike will love this new suspenseful novel in the Justin Hall series.

Afmadow, southern Somalia
September 20, 3:30 a.m. local time
Bullets hammered the MH-60 Black Hawk. The Navy SEALs squad leader Alex Roberts glanced at the control panel in front of him. The last mud-brick shacks of the village were falling behind, but the hail of bullets was relentless. It seemed like everyone on the ground was taking aim at their helicopter. People were shooting from the streets, from the trucks, from the rooftops of this stronghold of al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s branch in southern Somalia. Rocket-propelled grenades ripped through the night sky with their amber streaks, missing their target by sheer luck. The Black Hawk could withstand small-arms fire, but not RPGs. Their warheads could disable the helicopter’s rotors and force a crash landing.
Roberts looked at two squad members shattering the night with their M134 machine guns. The weapons were pouring forth a torrent of bullets at two thousand rounds per minute. He could not see it, but he was sure some of those bullets were shredding al-Shabaab militants engaged in the firefight.
Seconds later, the Black Hawk veered to the right, and the Islamic bastion disappeared into the darkness. The hail-like sound of bullets died down. Roberts looked back at the gunners falling in their seats and then at the other five members of his squad, who were securing their “cargo,” the targets of this operation, in the back of the helicopter. Two high-ranking al-Shabaab leaders lay tied, gagged, and blindfolded on the cabin floor.
“What’s our status?” Roberts asked.
“We’re clean. All systems seem functional,” the pilot replied, glancing at Roberts in the co-pilot’s seat.
Roberts nodded. “You all did well down there. In and out in fifteen.”
The snatch-and-grab operation was executed with the assistance of Joint Task Force Two, the elite Canadian counter-terrorism unit of the Special Operations Forces. Canadian Intelligence Service had obtained actionable intelligence on the target, and CIA had engaged one of their local assets. Their man on the ground had confirmed the target’s location thirty minutes before the start of the operation.
The SEALs dropped into Afmadow’s outskirts, neutralized the guards, and plucked the two militant leaders out of their safe house. The SEALs actions had drawn the terrorists’ fury, but their backlash was weak and easily counteracted. Hellfire missiles and machine gun fire had kept them at bay. The SEALs were now on their way to extract CIA’s man, Mussad Weydow. Their meeting point was another village twenty miles to the west. Then the squad was to proceed to the safety of Dhobley, a village close to the border with Kenya, in the hands of African Union peacekeepers.
“Will we be late?” asked Roberts.
“Negative,” replied the pilot. “We’ll make up the lost time.”
One of the militants jerked, kicked up his feet, and rolled against the cabin door. Walker, one of the gunners, leaned over and lifted the man’s blindfold. “We said don’t move, so don’t you dare to move,” he shouted in Arabic.
The militant’s gray eyes burned against his dark face. He mumbled something, but the rag stuffed deep into his mouth made his words inaudible.
Walker pulled down the blindfold and pushed the man back to his place next to the other detainee. “What a prick,” Walker spat out his words, “luring kids into this kind of a shithole life.”
“Chill out, man,” said Green, the other gunner. “They’ll pay for it soon enough.”
“Yeah, but how many innocents have they brainwashed so far?”
Green nodded with a sigh. Al-Shabaab had recently stepped up its aggressive recruitment campaign. US- and Canadian-born Somalis joined it in droves. The name al-Shabaab meant “the boys” in Arabic, and they lived up to it. The terrorist network kidnapped children as young as ten from all over Somalia and forced them to fight. Many foreign fighters from Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria had also joined al-Shabaab’s army, which claimed around fifteen thousand fighters.
“Green, is our contact in place?” Roberts asked.
“He should be. Last time I checked, he was two miles away from the exfil point. That was five minutes ago, give or take. I’ll call him to confirm his current position.”
Green dialed Weydow’s number on his satellite phone. He talked for a few seconds then hung up. “Weydow’s waiting at the abandoned warehouse, a mile east of the village. Everything’s going according to plan.”
“We’ll be there in five,” the pilot said.
The warehouse was a one-story cinder block building smaller than a school bus. It had a tin roof and was surrounded by a thatched fence with large holes and an open metal gate. Green switched on his night-vision goggles and looked down from the helicopter. Everything took a greenish tinge with a grainy feel. He spotted a small acacia tree behind the warehouse, the hulk of a large truck, and other debris scattered around in the yard. Weydow’s white van was nowhere in sight. “Where is Weydow?”
“Don’t see him,” Walker replied. He was also scanning the warehouse and its surroundings.
“Maybe he’s inside,” Green said.
Roberts pondered their options. At the relatively safe altitude of one thousand and five hundred feet, he could not observe the situation on the ground with accuracy. But he did not want to land until they had a visual on CIA’s man. On the ground, the helicopter was a sitting duck. They had carried out their operation so far with barely a scratch. He did not want to put his men needlessly in harm’s way.
“Call him again,” he ordered Green.
Green dialed Weydow’s number. No signal. He tried again. Again no signal.
“He’s not answering. Must have turned off his satphone.”
“What? Why?” Roberts asked.
“No idea.”
“He’s afraid someone will trace him?” Walker said.
“Who? Al-Shabaab? It doesn’t have that kind of gear,” Green said.
Roberts shrugged. “You never know. Weydow didn’t last this long in this hell of a place by being careless.”
“We’re landing?” Walker asked.
Before Roberts could reply, the warehouse’s metal doors swung open.
“Wait. There’s movement,” he said.
A white van zoomed outside the warehouse. The driver swerved around the acacia tree and headed toward the gate. Something resembling a spare tire was strapped to the front of the van.
“What? Where’s he going?” Roberts asked.
“I’m sure he can see us. He knows we’re coming. What’s going on?” said Walker.
An RPG warhead rushed toward them. Roberts saw it at the last moment, too late to do anything to avoid it. The warhead flew past them. It missed the Black Hawk’s main rotor by about three feet. A plume of gray smoke engulfed the helicopter.
“Ambush!” Walker shouted.
The pilot tilted the helicopter to the left, dropping out of the smoke cloud. Another RPG tore up the dark sky. This one widely missed its mark.
Walker pushed the cabin door to the side and rushed into position behind his M134 machine gun. Muzzle flashes lit up the left side of the warehouse. He focused his firepower at that target and kept his finger on the trigger. The bullets tore chunks out of the cinder block walls.
The pilot turned the helicopter around. Two shooters came into Green’s line of fire, and their muzzle flashes soon died. “Got the shooters by the acacia.”
“Nailed the three on the left,” Walker replied.
Roberts looked at the white van. It was quickly disappearing in the distance. He made a swift decision. “We’re going after them. Green, advise the command. Tell them we’ll be late.”
“Right away, sir.”
Green got through to the command center in Nairobi, Kenya and updated them on their status.
“How did they know we were coming?” asked one of the SEALs from the back.
“They’ve gotten to Weydow and made him talk,” Roberts said in a tense voice.
“You think he’s in the van?” asked Walker.
“Not sure—”
A loud bang rattled the back of the helicopter, almost jolting Roberts out of his seat. A moment later, the control panel beeped a sharp sound of alarm.
“We’re hit,” the pilot said. He studied the screens in front of him. “An RPG clipped our rear rotor.”
“We’re going down?” Roberts asked.
“Yeah, we’re going down,” the pilot replied.
The Black Hawk overtook the white van. Roberts squinted but could not make out the driver. The ground sped toward them fast and hard. The pilot slowed down. He tried to seal the helicopter’s fuel lines to avoid an explosion on impact. Roberts braced for the crash landing, a sick feeling forming in the pit of his stomach. His team was going down on his watch. He muttered a short prayer.
The helicopter swerved in a large circle. It tilted to the left and began another turn. The pilot struggled with the system controls. He tried to level the helicopter and execute a somewhat controlled crash landing. The main rotor stopped turning. The Black Hawk fell into gravity’s clutches. It completed another 360-degree turn.
Then it crashed on its starboard side.
The impact rolled the helicopter over. The main rotor blades crumpled as if made of tinfoil, the metal crunching and the glass shattering all around them. The cabin walls closed in. Everything not fastened to the Black Hawk’s airframe was hurled around the cabin like balls in a bingo blower. The pilot’s crashworthy seat protected him from the direct impact, but the windshield folded in as it hit the ground, killing the pilot and Roberts instantly.
The Black Hawk exploded into a million fiery fragments.

Featured Review
This was my first exposure to Justin Hall, thank you Ethan Jones. It was what I always look for in an action packed adventure, exciting adventures, an appreciation of the challenges of the "business of intelligence gathering" with a bonus of great character development, not just individually but in their relationships with each other. It was especially positive for me to have the other half of the team, Carrie, effective and a full contributor. So often in a male action writer author's view the woman comes off either savage or a lightweight.
The initial quotes were a clever prelude, to an entertaining story. So entertaining, I'm going back to read books one and two. I fully recommend Fog of War.

About the Author
Ethan Jones is the author of the wildly popular Justin Hall spy thriller series. The first book in this series, Arctic Wargame, came out in May 2012 and reached the Amazon's Top 10 Best Sellers lists in 2012 and 2013. The second book, Tripoli's Target, was released in October 2012. The third book in the series, Fog of War, came out in June 2013, and the fourth book, Double Agents, was published in December 2013. Ethan has also published three short stories and one novella, The Diplomat, which is the latest adventure in the Justin Hall series. Ethan is a lawyer by trade, and he lives in Canada with his wife and son.
To learn more about Ethan's current and future works and to read exclusive author interviews, books excerpts and book reviews, visit Ethan's blog.