"Nerve gas and terrorists threaten Washington, D.C. in this action-packed thriller!"
Reviewed by Patricia (Pat) Pascale
Posted August 23, 2018
Thriller | Thriller Spy
THE CONSULTANT introduces us
to Jonathan Hunter, a CIA "consultant" working at a post in the Middle
East. When he receives a plea for help from his brother, Kevin, who he
has not heard from in over 18 years, he goes AWOL from Kandahar,
Afghanistan, and heads to heir hometown of Winchester, VA. He arrives
at the designated location just as Kevin is shot. Lying and dying in his
arms, Kevin talks about: "Khalifah... Maya..." and "Not them." Jonathan
promises he will avenge his brother. Here, the action truly begins. He
meets Noor, his brother's Iranian wife, and their adopted teenage son,
Sameh, a shifty, very hostile young man. Jonathan did not know Kevin
was married and had a family, and getting to know them was his first
difficult task. Neither of them wanted or expected Jonathan in their life.
He also does not get on well with the investigating officer. Kevin
worked with the local force, and they are suspicious about why
Jonathan suddenly appeared and if he was involved in Kevin's killing.
Oscar La Rue, Jonathan's CIA boss, mentor, and longtime friend,
arrives in Winchester and is not pleased with his departure from the
CIA without permission. He has impounded all of Jonathan's substantial
savings and promises to give it back in the future after more missions
are accomplished. They must work together on this mission and find
out why Kevin was killed and what he was involved with that needed his
brother's help. Jonathan is a great hero, slow but sure. He is also very
funny, and I enjoyed his wisecracks.
THE CONSULTANT is a story not
for the faint of heart as it depicts brutality, killings, tortures, and a
diabolical scheme to kill thousands of innocent people with a deadly
nerve gas in Washington, D.C., This plot could come easily from our
daily headlines. There is non-stop suspense and action. Just when I
thought I knew who the guilty party is, there is a quick sudden twist
and turn that throws my theory out, as I rush to find another one. The
locale is mostly in quiet, rural Virginia. I especially enjoyed that as I live
in the Land of Lovers, many of the descriptions are easily recognized
and adds to this exciting tale of terrorists and traitors. The ending was
a surprise to me as I am a good sleuth and usually can forecast the
villains. Not so this time. TJ O'Connor is on my list of authors to follow
and await his next offering, coming soon I hope. THE CONSULTANT has my best praise!
Terrorism hits Main Street America
When a rogue CIA consultant goes AWOL from his Middle
Eastern post in response to his brotherâ€™s plea for help, he
arrives just in time to witness his brotherâ€™s murder. For
years, Jonathan Hunter and his brother Kevin Mallory had
spoken―until Kevinâ€™s final words, â€śâ€¦ Khalifah â€¦
Pursuing his brotherâ€™s killer, Hunter stumbles into a nest
of horrifying terrorist activity by Middle Eastern
which sparks a backlash across America. In the shadows,
Hunterâ€™s mentor, the omnipotent Oscar LaRue, is playing a
dangerous game with Russian Intelligence. Neither Hunter
LaRue realizes that a new threat―the Iranian
entered the game. Stakes rise as two shadowy players are
step ahead of Hunter and LaRue―Khalifah, a terrorist
mastermind, and Caine, a nomadic assassin who dances with
the highest bidder.
As attacks escalate and the country drifts toward another
Middle East conflict, innocent refugees become trapped
between the terrorists and the terrorized. Prejudice, hate,
and fear vent everywhere. Is this who weâ€™ve become? Before
the country explodes, Hunter must find Khalifah, learn the
next terror target, and pray heâ€™s in time to stop further
ExcerptDay 1: May 15, 2130 Hours, Daylight Saving Time
East Bank of the Shenandoah River, Clarke County, Virginia
The gunshots took me by surprise and, without luck, might
have killed me.
The first shot splayed a spider web across my windshield
before it whistled past my head, peppering glass needles
into my face. The second smashed my driverâ€™s side mirror.
An amÂ¬ateur might have panic-braked and skidded to a stopâ€”a
fatal mistake. The shooter hesitated, anticipating that
decision, and readied for my failure.
Training. Muscle memory. Response.
I gunned the engine, wrenched the car to the left to put
more steel between me and the shooter, and sped forward,
looking for cover.
My headlights exploded and flashed dark. Bullets breached
the windshield. The rearview mirror and rear window were
gone. Had I not flinched, one shot would have found my
right eye but pounded my headrest instead.
I careened to a stop at the bottom of the boat launchâ€”
vulnerÂ¬able. The shooter was ahead in the darkness, likely
maneuvering for another shot. A closer shot. The kill shot.
Heâ€™d be closing the distance and finding a new advantage.
Luck had its limits, so I dove from the car and rolled to
cover beÂ¬hind it. I fought to control the adrenaline and
bridle my thoughts.
Easy, Hunter, steady. Listenâ€”watchâ€”survive.
I stayed low and crept along the side of the car, looking
for betÂ¬ter cover. Spring rain made the darkness murky and
dense. The Shenandoah River was to my left some fifty feet.
A blind guess. Overhead, two dark spans of the Route 7
bridge blocked what little light there was but provided
some cover from the rain. The six substructure supports in
front of me might afford me cover. They also afforded the
shooter cover. He was hidden and waiting. Still, Kevin
Mallory was nowhere to be seen. Under normal conÂ¬ditionsâ€”
and normal is relative with meâ€”I might have judged the
shotsâ€™ origins. Driving headlong into an ambush on terrain
Iâ€™d long ago forgotten, in darkness and rain, I was all but
Easy, Hunter, easy. Count your breaths. One, two, three.
Out there, somewhere, someone wanted me dead.
Worse. I was unarmed and alone.
Jesus. Where was Kevin?
The boat launch was just a small gravel lot tucked beneath
the expanse of the Route 7 Bridge across the Shenandoah. At
night it should have been empty. It was nearing ten p.m.
and I hadnâ€™t exÂ¬pected to find anyone but Kevin. Yet, while
weâ€™d been estranged for years, under bad circumstances, I
doubted he was hunting me.
Although, I do tend to bring out the worst in people.
Ahead, perhaps seventy-five feet, a dark four-door SUV
faced an old pickup. The vehicles were nose to nose like
two dogs sniffÂ¬ing each other.
No movement. No sound.
One, two, three. I ran to the nearest bridge support,
stopped, listened, and bolted to the rear of the SUV.
Silence. Safety. But something elseâ€”a dangerous odor. The
pungent scent of gasoline. A lot of gasoline.
I got down on one knee and looked around. The dome light
was on and the driverâ€™s door was ajar. Something lay on the
ground near the left front fender. A large, bulky something
that washed an angry tide of flashbacks over me.
Iâ€™d seen silhouettes like that before.
Bodies look the same in any country, under any dark sky. It
didnâ€™t matter if it were the rocky Afghan terrain or along
a quiet country river. Their lifeless, empty shells were
all hopeless. All forsaken. All discards of violence. The
silhouette three yards away was no different. Except this
wasnâ€™t Afghanistan or Iraq. It was home.
I made ready.
No muzzle flash. No assassinâ€™s bullet. I crept to the SUVâ€™s
rear tire, crouched low, and slithered to the front fender.
The body was a man. He lay three feet in front of the
fender and precariously vulnerable beneath the spell of the
SUVâ€™s dome light. He was tall and bulky. Not fat, but
strong and muscled.
No. No. God, no!
After fifteen years of silence and thousands of miles, I
knew the bodyâ€”the man. His hair had grayed and his face was
creased with age and strain. The years had been hard on
him. Years he was here while I was forever there. Always
elsewhere. Heâ€™d built a life from our loss while Iâ€™d
escapedâ€”run away. He once warned me that my lifeâ€™s choice
would leave me as I found him now, alone and dead. The
irony churned bile inside me.
â€śKevin,â€ť I blurted without thinking, â€śKevin, itâ€™s me. Itâ€™s
My mouth was a desert and the familiar brew of adrenalin
and danger coursed through me. In one quick move, I leaped
from the SUVâ€™s shadow, grabbed his shoulders, and tried to
drag him back to safety.
No sooner had I reached him when a figure charged from the
darkness toward us. His arm leveledâ€”one, two, three shots
on the runâ€”all hitting earth nearby. I threw myself over
Kevin. AnÂ¬other shot sent stone fragments into my cheeks
and neck. The figÂ¬ure reached the rear of the pickup,
tossed something in the bed, fired another wild shot, and
retreated at a dead run.
Lightning. A brilliant flash of light, a violent
percussion, then a whoosh of fire erupted from the pickup.
The flames belched up and over the side panels. They spat
light and heat. The truck swelled into an inferno.
The heat singed my face. I gripped Kevinâ€™s shoulders and
dragged him the remaining feet behind the SUV. He was limp
and heavy. The raging fire bathed us in light, and I
finally saw him clearly. His eyes were dull and vacant. His
face paleâ€”a death mask. If life was inside, it was hidden
The truck was engulfed in flames, and the heat was
tremenÂ¬dous. It reached us and felt oddly comforting amidst
the spring dampness and dark.
â€śKevin, hold on. Hold on.â€ť I looked for an escape.
I saw the next shot before I heard itâ€”a flash of light
where none should beâ€”uphill near River Road. Seasoned
instincts threw me atop Kevin again. Glass crackled
overhead and rained down. I grabbed for the familiar weight
behind my back, but my fingers closed on nothing.
I hastily searched him. No weapon. All I found was an empty
holster where his handgun should have been. Where was it?
In a desperate move, I rolled off and snaked forward
beneath the truckâ€™s firelight and groped around where heâ€™d
been. It took sevÂ¬eral long, vulnerable seconds. I dared
not breathe or even look for the shooter, fearing Iâ€™d see
the shot that would end me. Finally, my fingers closed on a
wet, gritty semiautomatic.
As I retreated to the SUV, something moved in the darkness.
I pivoted and fired two rapid shots, spacing them three
Response. A shot dug into the gravel inches away to my
Rule one of mortal combatâ€”incoming fire has the right of
Retreat. The flash was a hundred feet away. The shooter had
withdrawn and angled south down River Road.
Should I take him? Could I?
One, two, three. Reason, Hunter, reason.
The shooter had fired at least fifteen rounds. Fourteen at
me and at least one into Kevin. Had Kevin returned fire?
How many rounds did his semiautomatic have left? I was on
turf all but forÂ¬gotten, armed with a handgun that was
perhaps near-empty. The shooter must have a high-capacity
magazine with plenty of ammo to cut me to pieces. Heâ€™d
already proven willing and capable of killing. He knew my
location. I knew nothing.
Revenge would wait.
I sat back against the SUVâ€™s tire and pulled Kevin close,
keeping one arm around him and the other holding the
handgun ready. The truck fire raged but was easing. The
gasoline that had been splashed over it was consumed and
only the paint and rubber were burning. Soon, though, the
fire might breach the gas tank.
I pulled Kevin close and braced myself.
â€śKevin, wake up. Itâ€™s meâ€”Jon. Iâ€™m here.â€ť
â€śJon?â€ť His eyes fluttered and half-opened. â€śI . . . so
sorry . . . Khalifah . . . heâ€™s . . . find G. Find G . . .â€ť
He gasped for breath. â€śKhalifah . . . G . . . Baltimore . .
.itâ€™s not them. Khalifah . . .so sorry . . .â€ť
â€śSorry for what? Whoâ€™s Khalifah? Did he shoot you?â€ť
â€śTomorrow . . .not them. G . . . Khalifah is . . .â€ť His
body went limp.
I shook him easily. â€śKevin, I donâ€™t understand. Tell me
â€śFind G . . .â€ť His eyes fluttered again, and he clutched my
arm with limp, sleepy fingers. â€śFind . . . Hunter . . .â€ť
â€śTell me who did this.â€ť
â€śG . . . Jon . . . tell no one. Maya . . . Maya . . . Maya
in BaltiÂ¬more . . .â€ť He fumbled with something from his
pants pocket. He gasped for breath and pressed that
something into my hand. â€śSo sorry . . .â€ť
I opened my hand. Heâ€™d given me a small, ripped piece of
heavy folded paper with handwriting scrawled on it. I
couldnâ€™t make out the writing and stuffed it into my
pocket. â€śKevin, what are you saying? Hold on. Dammit, hold
â€śGo . . . please . . . not them . . . itâ€™s not . . .â€ť He
tried to breathe but mustered only a raspy gag.
His body shuddered. A long, shallow sigh.
No. No. No . . .
My fingers found warm, sticky ooze soaking his shirt. The
rain had slowed to a faint mist and, except for the riverâ€™s
passing and the grumble of fire, there was only silence.
Then, somewhere along the highway miles in the distance,
â€śHold on, Kevin. Theyâ€™re coming. My God, hold on.â€ť
I checked his pulse and wounds. Both were draining away
I pressed my hands into the ooze but couldnâ€™t force its
retreat. For a few seconds, I was fourteen again. The dull
sickness invaded me as my parents were lowered side-by-side
into the earth. The ache started in my gut and swelled
until I spat bile and rage.
It was happening again.
The man who raised meâ€”the man Iâ€™d abandonedâ€”slipped away.
The emptiness and loss attacked. I had to fight or it would
destroy me again. This time, there was nowhere to run.
I closed my eyes and willed the anger in, commanding it to
take hold and fill me.
I remember, Kevin. I made you a promise. Iâ€™m late, but Iâ€™m
He was limp, and I clutched him. A rush of words filled me
that Iâ€™d wanted to say for so many years. But before I
could speak just one, my brother was gone.
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