I was in the mood recently for something sort of Jack Bauer-ish/Jason Bourne-esque (or is it "Jack Bauer-esque/Jason Bourne-ish?"), some kind of military/espionage/thriller deal, along that vein. I was vaguely aware of Brad Thor and his Scot Harvath series, but never had a real interest to check it out, mainly because I generally think that Brad Thor is full of shit. Nevertheless, Hidden Order
, latest in the series, was at eye-level at my local library, so I picked it up on a whim. And who knows? Maybe the guy can write a good thriller. Well, maybe he can, but Hidden Order
Bear in mind, to me there are two kinds of 1-star books. Some are so bad and so goofy, but are still sort of fun. The other kind of 1-star book is the kind that's just plain dumb. This one's the latter. I just had to add that clarification to be fair to other 1-star books that I enjoy in a B-movie sort of way. Hidden Order
is the answer for those who have ever had the burning question, "What do middle-aged extreme conservative males daydream about when they're not attending Tea Party rallies?"
From the dust jacket copy:
The most secretive organization in America operates without any accountability to the American people. Hiding in the shadows, pretending to be a part of the United States government, its power is beyond measure.
That organization is none other than the Federal Reserve Bank! When the five candidates being considered to head the Fed are kidnapped, Scott Harvath, a former Navy SEAL and Secret Service guy now working for a shadowy private organization, gets the assignment to investigate these kidnappings before they each are murdered by a madman.
Scot Harvath, despite his credentials, has to be one of the least effective and square "action heroes" I've ever seen. Most of the novel he spends looking up stuff in books or on the internet and questions hookers in Boston while the killer is always one step ahead of him. At one point the smokin' hot female Boston detective named Cordero (who, of course, has the hots for Harvath) and Harvath have a telling exchange:
"What can I do?" asked Harvath.
"Do you have any forensics experience?"
He shook his head. "Not much."
"Then I have the perfect job for you," she replied. "Go out to the car and bring those two Rubbermaid bins in."
"Then you're really going to prove your worth to this investigation."
"How?" he asked.
"You're going to find us coffee somewhere in this neighborhood."
When we want you to shoot someone, Harvath, we'll wake you up.
And Harvath is such a square that he is amazed when he hears the "F-word" peppering an interviewee's statement. "Not even in the military had Harvath heard someone's speech so peppered with it." I call bullshit. As a seventeen year-old private E-nothing I distinctly remember the drill sergeant using some variation of the F-bomb literally every other word. And he was just instructing us how to make our bunks. I remember being amazed at the versatility of the word. I find it hard to believe that this veteran Navy SEAL is so impressed by a little cursing. Isn't that what sailors do?
Speaking of Harvath's naivety, this segues well into the second major fail of Hidden Order
. After learning that his client is the Federal Reserve Bank, Harvath goes to some veteran CIA dude, Bill Wise, to get educated on the subject and Wise is all like, "Dude, the Fed, they wanna turn your children into Miley Cyrus twerking zombies and then eat them while they take all your cash to spend on drugs and whores while America collapses!," and Harvath is shaking his head and like all, "No way, dude, that totally blows. Why don't the American people do something about it?" and Wise is like, "Dude, they don't even know!
Of course, I'm paraphrasing. But the point is, a major portion of the setup is Thor clobbering you over the head with his own political views. I'm not one to rag on a book just because I disagree with its politics, but I don't like being clobbered over the head with an author's personal agenda, especially in such an artless and clumsy manner. For what it's worth, the Federal Reserve bank is the least of my worries. But it could have been an interesting premise maybe. Dan Brown does a much better job of this tin-foil-hat conspiracy stuff, and if you know my opinion of Brown that's saying something. Take a note, Thor.
Thirdly, Hidden Order
is just so ridiculously ethnocentric that it could be a spoof-- but it isn't!
In the only parallel story thread that's vaguely interesting, CIA officer Lydia Myers is on the run from persons unknown (this eventually ties in with the main thread). When she first catches on that enemy agents are out to get her, she considers the enemy's tactics:
She ran through her mind the long list of people around the world she had pissed off badly enough to want to come get her. The fact that the attack had been carried out by two young Caucasians worried the hell out of her, as it could very well be an Islamic operation. As box-of-rocks stupid as so many Muslim foot soldiers were, the men in the organizational structures of the more aggressive terror organizations tended to be rather intelligent. If one of those groups had the wherewithal to track her down like this, they'd never be dumb enough to send a Muslim man, or even a Muslim woman to lure her out of her apartment. The minute she saw either on her doorstep, her antennae would be up. The tipsy blonde with the fender-bender story was the perfect ploy.
This, of course, begs the question: what does a Muslim look like?
Then ask yourself, what does a Christian look like? Or a Jew? Or a Buddhist? What does an atheist look like? A vegetarian? A conservative? A liberal? A college professor? A librarian? A writer or artist? What does a father, mother, sister or brother look like? You get my point (I hope).
In conclusion, Hidden Order
was stupid, pedantic and ignorant. My feeling that Brad Thor is generally full of shit ("shadowed a black ops team in Afghanistan." Please. Get real.) did not factor at all into this review. The book just plain sucked. There are twelve other Scot Harvath books, but life's too short for me to give them a chance.