It’s nearing doomsday in this fast-paced novel of international intrigue by first-time author Brad Carlson.

Israel and Iran are set to square off on the rapidly developing Iranian nuclear capability, and CIA operative Stonewall Jackson has been assigned to an elite Israeli team tasked with smuggling out the West’s chief source of intelligence on the threat. This they do in a quick, professionally executed extraction, and then, with their highly placed informant out of harm’s way, the Israelis strike hard and fast to neutralize Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

It’s a rowdy but highly competent unit that Jackson joins. Ben and Yoni are the lead and exec, respectively; Ayal is explosives; Jonah and Dov supply muscle and brains along with Levi, who also handles comm capabilities. And then there are Zivah and Dani — the only women on the team.  But don’t underestimate them; the last guy who had the temerity to tangle with Dani is now well and truly dead.

After the IDF forces execute their surgical strikes, the Iranians lash out at the U.S. Navy stationed offshore, sending 48 deadly missiles streaking toward the USS George Washington and her battle group. It’s a near thing, but the projectiles are swatted summarily from the skies and the Iranians are red-faced and fuming, though now largely impotent after being worked over by the combined military might of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and a swarm of fiery air support.

This is Tom Clancy-style adventure at its heart-pounding best, packed with plenty of knowledgeable references to current ordnance, weaponry and ubiquitous acronyms: CIWS (Close In Weapons Systems), AAWC (Anti-Air War Coordinator), and SAM (Surface to Air Missile), to name but a few.

Meanwhile, a covert Iranian operation known only as “Cyrus” is quietly getting underway on a series of remote cattle ranches in Nevada, Oregon and Texas. What are these decidedly illegal aliens up to? A battalion-sized force has been smuggled over time onto U.S. soil with a single objective in mind: inflict maximum damage to the Great Satan’s infrastructure.

What can Jackson and his team do to thwart this unprecedented invasion? While Beltway bureaucrats whine about not violating any civil rights in the hunt for these 500 battle-hardened Iranian soldiers, incalculable damage is done in their first carefully planned act of destruction.

The author brings to bear what clearly is a wealth of knowledge about just how America might respond to such a threat. His narrative is rich with been-there-done-that military allusions and incredibly detailed lingo about combat operations.

It’s a story that’s as relevant as today’s headlines and vividly points up just how vulnerable the U.S. is to another 9/11-style attack — although this is not a terrorist action. It’s what might conceivably happen if a determined foreign foe decides to wreak havoc on our sovereign shores.

And buckle up for the cinematic last few chapters. You won’t believe the Bruce-Willis-movie-calibre ending with righteous justice served up in true Special Forces fashion.

Five stars to The Gambit. Anyone who’s ever spent time in the armed services will feel right at home with the dialogue and kick-butt consequences that would await anyone foolish enough to threaten the U.S. mainland in such a manner.

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