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Trap the Devil
When the shark becomes the prey
By Steven Martinovich
The general consensus was that the male version of the female romance novel, namely the techno-thriller, would eventually sputter to death thanks to the fall of the Soviet Union and the general lack of a near-peer power rival for the United States. Two decades later and the genre is stronger than ever thanks to fears over Chinese expansionism, transnational terrorist organizations seemingly able to reach anywhere and the rise of Orwellian surveillance states, among others. These must be good days to be a techno-thriller author.
Of late, not surprisingly, the primary focus of many of these novels has been the shadowy world Islamist terrorism, seemingly able to smuggle nuclear weapons anywhere, assassinate anyone and strike fear into the hearts of even the most secure. Ben Coes’ entertaining Trap the Devil is one of those rare books these days where the villains aren’t of Middle Eastern extraction, but rather Americans seeking their annihilation. Coes, who interned in the Reagan White House and served as speechwriter former U.S. Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins, brings back his former Delta Force hero Dewey Andreas to stop a plot that goes very nearly to the top of America’s government.
Trap the Devil kicks off in the late 1970s when high-ranking CIA officer Charles Bruner’s child is killed in a bomb attack in Madrid by a Saudi terrorist. Not long after, legendary CIA boss William Casey brings him in on a secret project designed to provide an extra layer of protection for the president and strike out proactively against terrorist movements anywhere in the world. Over time Bruner’s anger transform the program into a sword he desires to use to literally destroy Islam by taking over the U.S. government and using its full resources – with all that implies – to destroying its adherents. Simply put, Bruner and his cabal want to murder virtually every Muslim on the planet. One must admire the scale of Bruner’s ambitions though not the goal itself.
Standing in his way is the wife of one of the primary conspirators who has overheard the plot, and Andreas, dragged into the mess simply by being at the right place at the wrong time. Complicating matters for Andreas is that he’s been framed by the secret group as the killer of the Secretary of State in Paris. And thanks to his previous covert work that stopped numerous nefarious plots, Andreas’ status as a wanted man has attracted the attention of an assortment of frustrated and angry terrorist groups and state operatives who crave the chance for revenge and adding his scalp to their collections.
From there Andreas is on the run, a bit of an odd turn for the master predator, relying powerful friends in the American intelligence community and some old friends of uncertain allegiance. Tracking the mysterious woman while evading their pursuers, Andreas races across much of Europe uncertain if the killing of the Secretary of State was a simple murder or part of larger mysterious whole. Given the quality of those after him, who outside of regular police unware of the whole story, many of whom are former black ops operatives like Andreas, the answer should have probably been quite obvious to him.
Trap the Devil cannot be accused of wasting time and ink – it moves with a speed that would strain your neck if it were a car. There are some occasional moments that raise an eyebrow, such as Coes’ description of the functioning of well-known firearms and physical feats that seem unmoored from reality, but overall it is a fun summer read that successfully checks the boxes of operatives managing the impossible, plots that much be disrupted, and a world that once again needs saving. Dewey Andreas is back and his seventh literary foray shows that he’s as lethal, taciturn and effective as ever.
Steve Martinovich is the founder and editor of Enter Stage Right.