The forces of counterterrorism never rest in this new full-throttle Brad Thor thriller. The Athena Project engraved in the title is the code name for the training of an elite team of multi-skilled female warriors recruited from world champion athletes. Once deployed, these superlatively conditioned operatives will pursue missions even more dangerous than impossible. Covert action; military intrigue; reader excitement.
The Athena Projectby Brad Thor
The world’s most elite counterterrorism unit has just taken its game to an entirely new level. And not a moment too soon . . .
From behind the rows of razor wire, a new breed of counterterrorism operator has emerged.
Just as skilled, just as fearsome, and just as deadly as their colleagues, Delta Force’s newest members have only one thing setting… See more details below
The world’s most elite counterterrorism unit has just taken its game to an entirely new level. And not a moment too soon . . .
From behind the rows of razor wire, a new breed of counterterrorism operator has emerged.
Just as skilled, just as fearsome, and just as deadly as their colleagues, Delta Force’s newest members have only one thing setting them apart—their gender. Part of a top-secret, all-female program codenamed The Athena Project, four of Delta’s best and brightest women are about to undertake one of the nation’s deadliest assignments.
When a terrorist attack in Rome kills more than twenty Americans, Athena Team members Gretchen Casey, Julie Ericsson, Megan Rhodes, and Alex Cooper are tasked with hunting down the Venetian arms dealer responsible for providing the explosives. But there is more to the story than anyone knows.
In the jungles of South America, a young U.S. intelligence officer has made a grisly discovery. Surrounded by monoliths covered with Runic symbols, one of America’s greatest fears appears to have come true. Simultaneously in Colorado, a foreign spy is close to penetrating the mysterious secret the U.S. government has hidden beneath Denver International Airport.
As Casey, Ericsson, Rhodes, and Cooper close in on their target, they will soon learn that another attack—one of unimaginable proportions—has already been set in motion, and the greatest threat they face may be the secrets kept by their own government.
- Atria Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Read an Excerpt
The heat was unbearable. Ryan Naylor was drenched with sweat and the butt of his Glock pistol chafed against the small of his back. Some might have said it served him right. Doctors shouldn’t be carrying weapons; even here. But Ryan Naylor wasn’t just a doctor.
As the thirty-two-year-old surgeon slapped another mosquito trying to drain the blood from his neck, he wondered if he was being led into a trap.
“How much farther?” he asked in Spanish.
“Not much,” said one of the men in front of him. It was the same answer he’d been given repeatedly since they’d gotten out of their Land Cruisers to push deeper into the jungle on foot.
In the canopy of trees above, multiple species of birds and monkeys called down, upset at the alien presence.
Half of Naylor’s Camelback was already empty, but he’d yet to see any of the Guaranis he was traveling with raise their canteens.
The men marched in small-unit fashion, keeping five yards between each other in case of ambush. They carried rifles that looked like relics from the Gran Chaco War of the 1930s. How they managed to keep them from rusting in the oppressive humidity was beyond him. But as he had learned early on, the Guaranis had a much different way of doing just about everything.
Naylor had been sent to Paraguay by the U.S. military to gather intelligence. He was based out of Ciudad del Este, Spanish for City of the East and capital of the Alto Paraná region.
Begun as a small village originally named after a Paraguayan dictator, it had grown to a bustling city of over 250,000 and was an illicit paradise, with trafficking in everything from pirated software and DVDs to drugs, weapons, and money laundering. But there was something else that had attracted the U.S. military’s interest. It was also home to a large Middle Eastern community.
Upward of twenty thousand of the city’s inhabitants were either themselves from or descendants of people from places like Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. The city even boasted two Arabic-language television stations.
Set against the backdrop of Paraguay’s corrupt government, Ciudad del Este’s Middle Eastern community provided the perfect human camouflage for transient Arab men involved in Islamic terrorism.
Organizations such as al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Al Gamaat, and Al Islamiyya had all set up shop there. The Hezbollah operation alone was believed to have sent more than fifty million dollars back to the Middle East. In the remote deserts and jungles of the shared border area of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil were multiple terror training camps, more extensive and professional than anything ever seen in Afghanistan or Sudan.
Techniques for building IEDs and explosively formed projectiles were taught and perfected daily with instructors from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Syrian secret service, and Libyan intelligence service whose operatives rotated in and out as “visiting professors.”
As if that wasn’t enough to worry American authorities, Sunni and Shia extremist groups had joined forces to work and train together in the region.
A team of over forty FBI agents had been permanently encamped in Ciudad del Este to map out and dismantle the business dealings of the terrorist organizations, but it was the U.S. military, in particular Army intelligence, that had been charged with locating the terrorist training camps and gathering as much information about them as possible. That’s where Ryan Naylor came in.
Born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut, Naylor had served in the National Guard and attended college on the GI Bill. The Army then paid for him to attend medical school where he trained as a trauma surgeon. Like most surgeons, Naylor had a healthy ego, but it had never blossomed into arrogance. He was actually a very well-grounded doctor.
He stood a little over six feet tall, had brown hair, green eyes, and a handsome face. His mother had been of Dutch descent. He never knew his father.
After completing his residency, he’d pursued a fellowship in plastic surgery. He wanted to do more than simply repair damage, he wanted to make people normal, make them whole again. During his fellowship, he’d found himself drawn to facial surgery, in particular fixing cleft lips and cleft palates. Whether or not the Army felt this was a waste of his time and their money, they never said. All they cared about was that he complete his training and report for duty.
Having done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he fully expected to be sent back to a field hospital, but the Army had other plans for him. They wanted Naylor to become a missionary.
He spent the next year in what he euphemistically referred to as “Spy School.” His high-school Spanish was taken to a level he never would have thought himself capable of, he learned to pilot a variety of light aircraft, the ins and outs of tradecraft, how to conduct deep reconnaissance assignments, radio and satellite communications, and at night, he attended church and Bible study classes.
When his training was complete and he was activated, Naylor volunteered for a Christian medical organization with missions scattered throughout South America. One of their locations was in Ciudad del Este.
There were very few ways an American could get far enough into the Paraguayan sticks to gather effective intelligence. Posing as a doctor was one of the best. By delivering medical care to remote communities, Naylor was in a position to build effective relationships with the people most likely to hear and know about terrorist activities. And that was exactly what he had been doing. He had quickly developed an exceptional human network throughout most of the villages he served.
Out of the handful of operatives the United States had working in Paraguay, Naylor produced the best reports. Not only did he bring back grade A material from the field every time, but his sources continued to feed high-quality intelligence back to him when he was in Ciudad del Este.
When the man walking in front of him suddenly stopped, Naylor, whose mind had been wandering, chastised himself for not staying focused. Even though the jungle was monotonous and the heat stifling, it was no excuse to get lazy and let his guard down. He knew better.
Two men at the head of their column were having a discussion. In the distance, Naylor thought he could hear a river. Breaking ranks, he walked up to them. “What’s going on?” he asked in Spanish.
“The others don’t want to go any farther,” said one of the men. “I will take you the rest of the way myself.”
“Wait a second. Why?”
“Because they’re afraid.”
“Afraid of what? Sickness? Whatever the people there died from?”
The older man shook his head. “From what we were told, the people there did not die from sickness.”
Naylor had no idea what the people had died from. All he knew was that a villager had stumbled across several dead bodies in a remote part of the jungle, a place no one lived in. The bodies belonged to foreigners, the man had said. Shortly after recounting his tale he had stopped talking. It was almost as if he had slipped into shock, though some sort of catatonic state was more likely. Naylor wasn’t a psychiatrist, but whatever the man had seen had deeply disturbed him.
The area they were now in was rumored to have housed an al Qaeda training camp at one point, though no one could ever say exactly where. Add to that a report of “dead foreigners,” and that was all Naylor had needed to hear. He had no idea what had so spooked the villager who had stumbled upon the bodies, but his interest had been piqued, and once his mind was set on something, it was impossible to dissuade him from it.
The other men of their party made camp, while Ryan and the old man trudged deeper into the jungle.
Forty-five minutes later, the soft earth beneath their feet turned to what Naylor at first thought were rocks and then realized were actually pavers. Though choked with weeds, it appeared that they were on some sort of long-abandoned road.
They followed the path as it wound down into a wide gulley. There were enormous stones, some twenty feet high and fifteen feet across in places. Some appeared to have been worked with tools. Despite their having been eroded by time and the elements, Naylor could make out letters or strange symbols of some sort on them.
Ryan reached out to touch one of the monoliths, but the old man caught his wrist and pulled his hand back. “The stones are evil,” he said. “Don’t touch them.”
“Where are we?” Ryan asked.
“We are close,” replied the old man as he let go of Naylor and continued. “Close to the dead.”
The gulley was unusually cool. Naylor hadn’t noticed it at first, but the temperature had to be at least fifteen to twenty degrees cooler. The trees on the ridges above them were full enough that the thick jungle canopy remained intact. Even if somebody in an airplane knew what he was looking for, this little valley would be impossible to spot.
Wildly overgrown, it stretched on for a hundred yards before leveling out and being swallowed back up again by the jungle. Naylor kept his eyes peeled for any sign of recent human habitation, but there were no remains of campfires, no shelters, no refuse, nothing. It was also eerily quiet. He’d been so focused on the road and then the tall stones that he hadn’t noticed that the jungle around them was now completely silent. The screaming birds and monkeys had completely disappeared.
“This way,” the old man said, pointing off to the right, into the jungle.
Naylor didn’t bother responding, he simply nodded and followed behind.
They walked until the pavers ended and kept going. Ryan wondered if this had once been the site of some ancient civilization. He had his digital camera with him and he made a mental note to snap some pictures of the monoliths on their way back. They would add color to his next report.
As Naylor swung his pack over to one shoulder to fish out his camera, the old man stopped and held up his hand. This time, Ryan was paying attention and he came to an immediate stop. He knew better than to speak.
The old man peered into the distance and then said, “Do you see it?”
Naylor moved up alongside him and looked. He could see shapes, but he wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking at. “Is that a jeep?”
The old man nodded. “And something else. Something bigger.”
All of the Muslims were known by a single term among the Guaranis. “Arabs?” asked Naylor.
The old man shrugged and moved slowly forward. Though the gun had been rubbing his skin raw for hours, Ryan reached back anyway to make sure it was still there.
The closer they got to the objects, the slower the old man moved. They appeared to have been camouflaged. The hairs on the back of Ryan’s neck were starting to stand up.
The first shape turned out to be a truck. The old man raised his index finger to his lips and motioned for Naylor to remain quiet. Ryan didn’t need to be reminded.
As they neared, Naylor could see that the vehicle hadn’t been intentionally camouflaged at all. It had been consumed by the jungle.
It was old. At least fifty years. Maybe more. It looked military. As Naylor studied the truck, the old man moved off to the nearby jeep.
Naylor climbed up onto the running board and looked inside. It had been picked clean. By who or what, he had no idea. He worked his way to the front in the hope of discovering where the truck was from, or to whom it had belonged.
The glass of the gauges was spiderwebbed with cracks, the interior of the cab rusting away. There wasn’t enough sunlight to make out any specific detail.
Naylor unslung his pack so he could grab a flashlight and pull out his camera.
He looked up to check on the old man, who had already moved on from the jeep and toward something else.
Ryan removed his flashlight and put it in his mouth as he searched for his camera. There was thunder in the distance. As he heard the rumble, he glanced at his watch. Every day in the jungle the rain came at almost the same time. He looked back up for the old man but didn’t see him. He couldn’t have gone far.
Finding his camera, Ryan zipped his backpack. He positioned himself where he could get the best shot and powered up the camera.
He took his first picture and the automatic flash kicked in, brilliantly illuminating the interior of the cab. Moving a bit to his left, he had readied his next shot when there was a flash of lightning. It was followed by a scream.
Ryan ran toward the sound of the old man. His screams were like nothing he had ever heard. They weren’t screams of pain. They were screams of abject terror.
He tore through the jungle with his pistol in his hand and his lungs burning. As he ran, the screams intensified. When Naylor found him, he couldn’t figure out what had so frightened him until he followed the old man’s eyes off and to the right. The minute he saw them, he understood why the man was so terrified.
Then Ryan saw something else entirely, and that was when his own blood ran cold.
© 2010 Brad Thor
Meet the Author
Brad Thor, a graduate of the University of Southern California, has served as a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Analytic Red Cell Program and is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Lucerne, Path of the Assassin, State of the Union, Blowback, Takedown, The First Commandment, The Last Patriot, and The Apostle. Visit his website at www.BradThor.com.
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Having read all of Brad Thor's nine previous thrillers, and having become a real Brad Thor fan and an on-line member of "the Thorum," I looked forward to my special collector's copy of "The Athena Project" with great anticipation. When it arrived, I wasted no time in starting to read. The opening ten chapters are vintage Brad Thor: A written-for-the-movies chase scene, a page-turning exploration sequence that ends with a horrific descriptive revelation, and multiple subplots (each with its own characters and setting) that you know are ultimately going to thread together. Over the next thirty chapters, those same elements recur in different though similar contexts. But I've gotten used to the hard-boiled tension maintained throughout the Scot Harvath series, and was frankly disappointed in Brad Thor's latest thriller, and not just because Harvath appears in only two brief scenes. First, the reader is given a convincing explanation of how female anti-terrorist operatives receive the same training as their male counterparts, that they are just as tough and dedicated to their profession, and that, indeed, their femininity makes them a better choice for some assignments than some macho ex-SEAL agent. Chapter 2 reintroduces Alex Cooper, Julie Ericsson, Megan Rhodes, and Gretchen Casey, who first made their appearance in Thor's previous best-seller, "Foreign Influence." In that novel, they were very strong complements to the fearless and heroic Scot Harvath. But "The Athena Project" is supposed to be the story of their heroics, sans Harvath. Each is a thirty-ish college graduate with extensive background demonstrating her mental and physical prowess. Unfortunately, in the scenes that are designed to take up the time for them to travel from point A to point B, their vapid dialogue is very sophomoric and morphs them into a smart-assed version of Charlie's Chicks. There were enough developments and page-turning scenes, however, that kept me hooked through chapter 48. But the final twelve chapters were a letdown. The resolution of the character relationships and subplots seemed contrived. The first nine thrillers all had a sense of immediacy to them: Something disastrous absolutely was about to happen and had to be averted before the clock struck twelve. Nowhere does the plot of the terrorists in this story have that same sense of immediacy and impending doom. And so the story ends, with the four young women enjoying a drink to celebrate the successful completion of their assignment, and one of them about to make a move on "Mr. Right Now." In previous Brad Thor books, one chapter began on the next page following the end of the preceding chapter. In some paperbacks, chapters begin in the middle of a page. "The Athena Project," in its original hardback copy, is 322 pages. But, for some reason or another, someone made the decision to begin each chapter on a right-hand page. The result of this publishing decision is that there are 32 blank pages. I'm guessing that, especially in light of such lengthier stories as "Blowback," someone at Atria Books said, "290 pages does not a thriller make." I'm still a Brad Thor fan and would highly recommend any of his earlier works. Maybe this one is a victim of his own bar having been set so high. I'd re-read any of the nine Harvath books in a heartbeat. This one can wait.
to the Harvath Series. This book was boring and dragged on.
I'm a big Brad Thor fan, love the Scot Harvath character but this one falls way short on detail and suspense. Too many large leaps in the story ruined this for me. After finishing the book I felt like it was written for a "Hollywood" movie. If you like the Scot Harvath character, you will be disappointed.
Love Harvath, not sure what possessed Thor to write a book that combined Stargate with Skin-a-max. Bring Harvath back, maybe to investigate the murders of these 4 characters.....
Formulaic, with obvious characters from other books thrown in, little or no plot or character development. Appears that Mr. Thor was in a hurry to meet a deadline and just threw something together. Did not lead me to wish to read another book by him.... too boring, implausible and in my opinion demeaning to women....
Was so excited to see a new book by Brad Thor..what a disappointment!!..Agree with other poster..He did not develop the characters and the plot was silly... Mr.Thor, please write more about these ladies and let us know more about them, but no more unbelievable junk...Cannot recommend this book and would not even bother with the paperback...
I was so excited when this came out! However, I am disappointed in how flat all the female characters were. No one stands out and the characters were not developed. The plot was crazy and jumped around a lot. After reading this book, I still don't know much about the Athena team members. I think the author had a chance to pull us in with these new characters, yet he didn't. Overall, an Ok read- wait for the paperback.
I waited much longer than I usually do to read this book. The reviews were not good so I wasn't expecting much. It was much better than I thought it would be. I would say it was in line with all of Brad Thor's books. I wouldn't mind seeing more of this team and more of them working closely with Scott Harvath.
Terrible! One of the very worst books that I've read, and I'm a Thor fan. What ever possessed Brad Thor to write a story about a beautiful, sexy spec ops team of women? AND, chasing after a WW II Nazi invented transporter device capable to sending EMP bombs anywhere in the world, undetected. This is like some sick, twisted collaboration between Clive Cussler and Matthew Reilly and Barbara Cartland. Our hero, Scott Harvath, makes an appearance but as nothing more than a nobody gopher with his balls cut off as he caters to the whims of the sex-kittens. No reason to include Harvath in this other than as an attempt to tie Thor's other stories into this. From the awful story and ridiculous characters I would expect Thor to want to distance himself (and Harvath, his cash cow) as far as possible from this garbage. The "girls" in this story have been carefully selected for their athleticism, determination, work ethic along with their large breasts and long legs (and I'm not kidding). We are led to believe that they are as tough as any Delta, SEAL, Recon or Spetsnaz soldiers and they prove it by kicking ass on every special forces guy that comes along without breaking a nail and giving the constant Cussler-like witty dialog as bullets fly past their heads. Apparently all of the trained soldiers shooting at them cannot maintain their excellent marksmanship in the face of such beauty and large, Kevlar enhanced, breasts. Oh sorry, no body armor here. It would only clash with their uniform of choice; slinky evening gowns wherein they somehow manage to conceal their 9mm Glocks. I particularly loved the scenes with the constant sexual banter over who's sleeping with whom and how they are the "...smartest, best looking, hardest working warriors (they) know". Sadly this is clearly a work up to a sequel and perhaps (God forbid) a series. Oh, Thor, what have you done?
I read all of Thor's other books in one night......could not put them down. I waited so long and so anxiously for this one. What a disappointment. I don't think I can even force myself to finish it. No characters to connect with and a plot way too far out. Scot Harvath, please come back.
starts well and goes south fast. perhaps he needed some quick cash....
I've read just about all of this books. They've never been great but they've been readable. This one just dragged on-and-on-and-on. I could not work up much interest in the characters, the dialog was dumb, and the plot ridiculous. I found myself skimming over large chunks of it just to get through it. This book wasted my time.
This book was super short and very uninteresting. Most of the novel centered around a bunch of random characters that were not the "athena group". The battle scenes started and ended simply and several times the writing stopped in the middle of the action for the next chapter to start hours or even weeks later. If it wasn't for the interesting plot line I'd have ditched this book 10 pages in. All in all very poor writing and one of the few times in my life I've read a book and wanted my money back.
Delta Force created THE ATHENA PROJECT, the code name for their all female, top-secret operatives. Selected for their intelligence and athletic abilities, not to mention their incredible beauty and impressive measurements, these four women can apparently overpower even the most trained terrorists while wearing evening gowns. Following a deadly terrorist attack in Rome, the four are dispatched to find and capture the arms dealer who supplied the weapons. They eventually follow the trail of a transporter device invented by the Nazis that can supposedly transport bombs through a portal (think time travel). Unknown to the Delta quartet, the US government wants to install this transporter in the secret underground facility they've built below the Denver Airport. Along the way, the gals are able to covertly enter any country they choose, chasing after and annihilating international bad guys without so much as chipping their nail polish. Friends have told me for quite a while that I should try one of Thor's books, but I guess I picked the wrong one to start with. Reminiscent of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, this is a silly, silly book with a terrible plot. Lynn Kimmerle
This book was ridiculous. It appeared that Brad Thor turned his pen over to a woman (no offense) who write completely different than a man. I couldn't get through it because it was stupid. Don't buy this one. I'll think twice before buying another one of his books.
LOVED THIS ONE!
Great read - you will look forward to his next one.
Brad Thor is a master!
I really liked this book. Couldn't wait for the next chapter. Brad Thor makes the spy world fascinating!