Bestseller Coonts's exciting third thriller to star reformed burglar turned CIA operative Tommy Carmellini (after The Traitor) raises a timely issue-the lack of well-to-do Americans on combat duty in the war against terrorism. When an Iraqi bomb kills Huntington Winchester's only child, a Harvard med student who joined the navy out of patriotism, the grieving father decides he and his privileged friends aren't doing enough to defend civilization against the jihadist threat. Winchester gets tacit approval from one of those friends, the unnamed U.S. president, for him and some other well-to-do types to finance their own private war. When al-Qaeda mastermind Abu Qasim discovers the identities of those in Winchester's group and targets them, Carmellini and his CIA boss, Adm. Jake Grafton, determine to set a trap that involves Qasim's possible daughter. Though the constant switching between various points-of-view distracts at times, the action moves swiftly to its Hollywood ending. Author tour. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A tale of deadly international conspiracy and nonstop action from perennial bestselling author Stephen Coonts
This 13th installment in New York Times best-selling author Coonts's popular Jake Grafton series closely follows the events of his last book, The Traitor. Here, CIA operatives Grafton and Tommy Carmellini are joined in their pursuit of terrorist Abu Qasim by a group of international businessmen, bankers, and shippers. Because the story is told at turns by Tommy and an omniscient narrator, Obie® and Audie® Award winner Dennis Boutsikaris's portrayal of Tommy could have benefited from more defined vocal characterization. But his performance is wonderfully restrained, and he deftly fuses narration and reportage. Recommended for libraries with medium to large mystery-thriller collections as well as for those with other titles in this series. [Audio and video clips of interviews with the author available through us.macmillan.com.-Ed.]
Gwendolyn E. Osborne
“Only a gifted performer could bring such an incredible story to life and, equally important, make it believable. Dennis Boutsikaris is the right man for the job. He provides realistic accents for the colorful characters that abound. Furthermore, he knows exactly when to ratchet up the tension and bring listeners to the edge of their seats. Ultimately, Boutsikaris makes the unbelievable seem like breaking news. Incredible!” AudioFile on The Assassin
“...[Boutsikaris's] performance is wonderfully restrained, and he deftly fuses narration and reportage.” Library Journal on The Assassin
“Dennis Boutsikaris packs his presentation with a dazzling variety of accents and characters of both genders. However, he is at his best as Carmellini. Boutsikaris provides a unique vocal identity with an expression and tempo that match Tommy's wiseacre attitude. With just a little imagination, listeners get the feeling they are sharing a beer with Carmellini while Tommy tells his fascinating story. It doesn't get much better than this.” AudioFile on The Traitor, Winner of the Earphones award for truly exceptional presentations
Read an Excerpt
By Stephen Coonts
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Stephen Coonts
All rights reserved.
The limo pulled up to the front door of the Hay-Adams Hotel after a short jaunt across Lafayette Park. A Secret Service agent standing there opened the passenger door. The president got out and walked into the hotel, accompanied by two agents. He didn't look right or left, just walked straight across the lobby to the elevators and went into the first one. One agent joined him. Together they rode in silence to the fourth floor. Another Secret Service man was standing there by the elevators when the door opened.
At the end of the hallway, the agent with the president rapped on the door. When it opened, the president went in. The agent stayed outside in the hallway.
"Thanks for coming," the man who greeted the president said. He was in his early fifties, with graying hair and a square chin, still trim and fit and apparently as vigorous as he had been when he played cornerback for Boston College.
"Sorry about your son, Hunt," the president said. He held on to the other man's hand, grasping it with both of his own. The president had had plenty of practice at this and knew damn well how to do it.
Huntington Winchester nodded, extracted his hand from the president's grasp, and led the way to a portable bar. "I know you don't drink, but I'm having one. You want a Coke or something?"
"Club soda with a twist."
With the drinks in hand, the two men sat in easy chairs near the window. The White House was visible through the bare treetops of Lafayette Park.
Winchester took a sip of whiskey, then spoke: "The Marines tell me Owen, a sergeant named Martinez, and an Iraqi soldier named Abdul Something tried to pull a wounded Iraqi woman from a car with a bomb in it. They knew it was there and tried to rescue her anyway. Martinez said it was Owen's idea, and I believe it. That was Owen; that was the way he thought. If there was a way, he would have tried it.
"The bomb exploded when they were only a few feet from the car. Killed Owen instantly, mangled Martinez's arm. The Iraqi soldier escaped with only a concussion. The woman they were trying to rescue died in the helicopter that took her and Martinez to the hospital."
The president didn't say anything. Sometimes there isn't anything to say.
Winchester took another pull on his drink, which looked like Scotch or bourbon. Then he said, "They're trying to save Martinez's arm. He may lose it."
After a while, Winchester added, "You know the amazing thing? I don't personally know anybody else who has a son or daughter in the military. None of the people on my staff, none of my executives, none of our friends, none of the people at my clubs, no one."
The president sipped at his club soda.
"Kids from our socioeconomic group aren't supposed to join the military," Winchester continued. "They never think of it, and if they do, their parents demand that they change their minds. And having a draft wouldn't change that. I was too young for Vietnam, but all the older men I know managed to avoid the draft back then some way or other, or if they did get drafted, they wound up on a general's staff in Europe or Tokyo. Caught the clap three or four times and had a marvelous time. Not one of them actually went to Vietnam and risked his precious ass."
The president shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He was old enough for Vietnam, yet somehow ended up in the National Guard, which in those days rarely got called up for active service overseas. Today, in the absence of the tens of thousands of young men a military draft would bring in, the National Guard and reserves were getting called up for extended active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just how he managed to land that Guard billet when the waiting list had hundreds of names on it was a question that he had asked his father, who merely shrugged. "I didn't call anyone," his father the senator had said, and the president had believed him. The truth was the senator didn't have to call — his influential friends would take it upon themselves to ensure that the senator's son didn't have to join the common herd in the Army and risk life and limb in combat. And no doubt that is what happened. That's the way it has always worked in America for the scions of wealth and privilege.
Of course, the president had known all that even then. The question to his father was the sop to his conscience. He didn't want to go to Vietnam — no one he knew did — and since he was his father's son, he didn't have to. Being mortal clay, he had let it go at that. Still, the memory of that little compromise with fate wasn't anything to be proud of.
"Owen enlisted in the Naval Reserve three years ago," Winchester continued, "after his sophomore year in college. He was in premed, knew he wanted to be a doctor, help people. Signed up to be a corps-man. Took all the training, did the drills on weekends, all of it, and then four months ago his unit was called up and sent to Iraq. He was in his first year of Harvard Medical School.
"His mother didn't want him to join the military three years ago, and she threw a fit when his unit was called up. Demanded that I pull strings — call you and our senators and Admiral Adams." Adams was the chief of naval operations. "Yeah, I know Adams, too. We've bird hunted in South Dakota together."
He sighed and took another slug of his liquor. "I refused. Told her this was Owen's choice, and I was proud of him. The truth was that if I had pulled strings and denied him his opportunity to serve, an opportunity he sought, he would have felt betrayed. I couldn't do that to him." He took a deep breath, exhaled slowly.
"When the news came last week that he was dead, Ellen told me she was divorcing me. She's moved out, hired a lawyer. The process servers are probably looking for me right now."
"I'm sorry, Hunt," the president said. He put the club soda on the stand beside the chair; he didn't want any more of it.
"Owen was our only child. God fucking damn!" Winchester finished his drink. "So here I sit, dumping all this shit on you, as if you weren't carrying enough of a load as it is."
"You're my friend, Hunt. Have been for twenty years."
"You have a lot of friends," Huntington Winchester said. He went to the bar and poured himself another, came back and resumed his seat. He eyed the president carefully.
"The real problem is that people in my class view the war on terror as a nuisance, something that doesn't really affect us. Blue-collar kids join the military and risk their lives and limbs; not our kids, who are getting first-class educations and going to med school, or law school, or getting a finance degree and joining some Wall Street firm. We sit in our big houses with maids and chauffeurs and modern art collections and all the rest of it, reading in the newspapers about suicide bombers murdering people and watching the mayhem on television. We think it is someone else's fight. It isn't. That's what Owen understood. It's our fight."
"We are fighting the terrorists, Hunt," the president said. "The best way we know how. Is it going well? Depends on whom you ask. But we're doing our best. I assure you of that."
Winchester wasn't buying. "Our enemies are not the thugs who kidnapped that man from that car in Iraq, murdered Owen and that woman. Our real enemies are the people who put them up to it — the imams who preach hate, who are defending a fossilized religion that has been unable to come to grips with thirteen centuries of change, and the people who are financing terrorism, the scum who enjoy seeing other people suffer or who want to buy peace for themselves. Those people are the enemy."
He picked up the daily paper, which was lying on the couch. "Look at this — another ignorant, illiterate holy man hiding in Pakistan has exhorted the faithful to attack Americans, anywhere they can be found." He tossed the paper across the room. "Car bombs in London, shaped charges in Iraq, nuclear threats from Iran ... 'Death to America!'"
"Trying to silence individual voices won't do much good, Owen. The war will be won when Muslims classify these people as lunatics and ignore them."
"By God, those bastards want a fight," Winchester snarled. "We should give them one. How many innocent people have to die to satisfy these fanatics' thirst for blood before that wonderful day comes?"
The president didn't reply. He glanced at Winchester's drink, wishing he could have a sip of it.
"I have some friends," Winchester continued, staring at the president's face, "some of them Americans, the rest Europeans. We've talked about this for years, about the fact that we owe civilization more than paying taxes and tut-tutting at the fucking golf club."
"You've given your only son, Hunt. Sounds to me as if you've put more than your share into the collection plate."
"My friends and I are businessmen, bankers and shippers. The thought occurred to us that locked somewhere in the records of our daily businesses are the money trails that terrorists leave behind whenever they move money or material across borders. We do business worldwide. We can help find the people who are moving the money, and behind them, the people who are financing the terrorists. From there we can work backward to the preachers of hate who are firing up the fools."
"Who are your friends?" the president asked.
Winchester gave him names and companies.
"And after you identify these people?" the president asked.
"We'll put up the money to finance assassination squads to kill them."
The president didn't say a word. He didn't really want to hear this. Any of it.
"I want your help," Winchester continued, his eyes holding the president's. "We have money, enough to fund an army, and we're willing to spend it. But we need some help data-mining our records. It's all there if we can just dig it out. And we need some hard men who can pull the trigger and thrust in the knife. I want you to find the people who can help us."
"If this ever comes out," the president said frankly, "the least that can happen is your companies get a black eye for violating privacy statutes. Customers may sue —"
"Damn them!" Winchester exclaimed. "Terrorists have no privacy rights, and everybody else can just go hang."
"Oh, there's more," the president added. "If you do anything beyond giving information to the government, you'll probably go to prison. Conspiracy to commit murder, murder for hire, money laundering — maybe they'll even throw in a terrorism charge."
Huntington Winchester didn't say a word.
The president rose and went to the window. He stood there with his arms crossed looking at the war protesters in Lafayette Park, at the trees, at the top of the White House and the Washington Monument beyond. He thought about the last few years, about the politicians and promises and coffins and kids brought back on gurneys, maimed for life.
Finally he turned and faced Winchester. "I'll think about it."
Winchester wanted more of a commitment than that, but he held his tongue.
"If this blows up in your face, Hunt, I'll make sad noises. Nothing else. There will be no presidential pardon, so don't even entertain that possibility in the back of your mind. You and your friends want to play a very dangerous game, and your lives and your fortunes and your freedom are the stakes."
"'We pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.' Wasn't that the way the phrasing went?" Huntington Winchester asked softly.
The president wouldn't let it rest. He walked forward until he was three feet from Winchester and scrutinized his face. "You aren't proposing business as usual, Hunt. This isn't doing market research for a Wall Street tender offer, buying an oil concession from some impoverished dictatorship or launching a new brand of toothpaste. I want to make sure you understand precisely how big the pile is that you and your 'friends' are shoving out onto the table."
"I do understand. Goddamnit, man, Owen was my only son! What do you think he gave to his country? What the hell do you think Ellen and I gave?"
"Owen was wearing a United States Navy uniform. You aren't. There's a huge difference."
"I understand. I'll not ask you for anything else. Ever."
The president made a gesture with his right hand, one hundreds of millions of people had seen him make countless times. "Who knows, if you help us find a few of those bastards, it might actually do some good."
He stuck out his hand. Winchester rose from his chair and took it.
One firm shake, then the president headed for the door. "I'll think about it," he said, almost to himself. He opened the door and passed through and closed it behind him.
A week later Huntington Winchester received a call from the president. He was at home, in his empty house. The cook left after dinner, and the maid and butler had the evening off. He answered the ringing telephone. There were no social preliminaries. "The Java Hut in Marblehead. A man will meet you there tomorrow morning at ten. He knows what you look like."
"Thank you," Winchester said.
"Good luck," the president muttered and broke the connection.
Downtown Marblehead was a cutesy tourist town, and this late-autumn morning the tourists were out in force, filling every parking place, cramming the sidewalks and shops. Huntington Winchester was ten minutes early when he walked into the Java Hut. The place was packed, with every seat taken. He glanced at the faces, saw no one he recognized and got in line. When he made it to the counter, he ordered a medium-sized cup of gourmet coffee. After he paid, he went to the stand where thermos bottles of cream, skim milk and 2 percent were located. He poured in a little skim milk.
As he turned around with coffee in hand, a man said, "Come with me. Let's get outta here."
Winchester followed the man, who was a little over six feet and lean, with thinning hair going gray.
Out on the sidewalk, Winchester got a better look at the man who had spoken to him. His short hair was combed straight back, his nose was a trifle large, and he had the coldest set of gray eyes Huntington Winchester had ever seen. He was wearing jeans and a dark blue jacket. Under the open jacket he wore a golf shirt. The skin on his face, neck and arms was weathered — at some time in the past, probably a lot of times, he had been exposed to too much sun.
"Name's Grafton," the man said. "I think there's a boardwalk just up the way where we can talk."
Winchester walked along, his coffee in his hand. When they were both leaning on a rail looking at the bay, the man named Grafton said, "I hear you have a proposition."
Winchester glanced around to ensure there was no one in earshot and repeated the plan he had told the president. "I asked our mutual friend to find someone who could pull it off," he said. "Apparently he thinks you are the man."
During Winchester's explanation, he examined Grafton, who had his hands folded, his forearms on the rail. He was wearing a wedding ring and a cheap watch on a flexible band — no other jewelry. He looked, Winchester thought, like a truck driver, one close to retirement.
Grafton said nothing, just looked at the bay and the boats and the people strolling on the boardwalk. "Mr. Winchester," he said after a while. "I came today to size you up. I am not committed to anything, and you aren't. Right now we're just doing a little preliminary shuffling to determine if we really want to dance."
"What do you want to know about me? Ask away."
"There's nothing to ask. I did a little research. You were born in 1955 to Robert and Harriet Peabody Winchester. You were the second of three sons. Your older brother is a banker with Merrill Lynch and your younger brother is a thoracic surgeon. You were educated as an engineer at Boston College, worked for several oil firms for the first five years after you got out of school, then founded a company that made oil field equipment. You sold that company ten years later for cash and stock, about six hundred million dollars' worth. You bought another company, grew it, bought out a couple of competitors, and are now supplying oil field equipment to major producers all over the world. You have a net worth in excess of two billion dollars."
Excerpted from The Assassin by Stephen Coonts. Copyright © 2008 Stephen Coonts. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Stephen Coonts is the author of many New York Times bestselling books, which have been translated and published around the world. His novels include Flight of the Intruder, The Disciple, The Assassin, and the Deep Black and Saucers series. A former naval aviator and Vietnam combat veteran, he is a graduate of West Virginia University and the University of Colorado School of Law. He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and son.
Dennis Boutsikaris, winner of AudioFile Magazine's 2010 Best Voice in Mystery & Suspense, has recorded more than 100 audiobooks for publishers in the United States and Great Britain. His critically-acclaimed work has garnered four Golden Earphone awards and two Best Voices of the Year Awards from AudioFile Magazine and five Audies from the Audio Publishers of America.
- Date of Birth:
- July 19, 1946
- Place of Birth:
- Morgantown, West Virginia
- B.A., West Virginia University, 1968; J.D., University of Colorado, 1979
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I like the writing style used for the Tommy Carmellini series. Kind of a Sam Spade joins the CIA amalgam. Worth the read.
Great read. Great suspense. An unexpected twist or two...love Coonts! Again, I wish I knew Grafton and Carmellini in real life. The only one missing is Toad!
This is my 2nd book I have read by Stephen Coonts, the 1st " Deep Black" and has yet to let me down. The ending was well disguised.
Typical of series,excitment,suspense anda goot plot!!!
Didn't put it down until the battery ran out. Good reading as always.
I read this book in one day non-stop because I could not put it down. I have read eight of the first ten of Stephen Coonts' books and I am hooked. The Tommy Carmellini series is a must read. I recommend reading the first two in the series before reading this book because everything makes more sense and the emotion has a greater impact but if you only read this book you will enjoy it. Stephen Coonts has a writing style of attention to detail and description that captures the reader. He has good character development and well thought out realistic plots. Tommy Carmellini is one of my favorite characters. He makes mistakes and his past is not perfect. He is an average guy trying to make a living. Enjoy!
I liked the story line. It was intriguing, kept you wondering about Marisa and how Oasim would complete his goal as a terrorist. I read it during the week of the Boston Marathon bombing and it fit in with terrorist reality.