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By Dawn's Early Light
     

By Dawn's Early Light

by Philip Shelby, Philip Shelby (Editor), Shelby Philip
 

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After she's blackballed by Wall Street for exposing a powerful banker's corruption, Sloane Ryder is recruited by a covert government agency to hunt down moles and spies within the corridors of power. It seems to be the perfect job for the straight-shooting Sloane -- until a suspicious tip leads her to uncover a shocking conspiracy wrought by some of the most prominent

Overview

After she's blackballed by Wall Street for exposing a powerful banker's corruption, Sloane Ryder is recruited by a covert government agency to hunt down moles and spies within the corridors of power. It seems to be the perfect job for the straight-shooting Sloane -- until a suspicious tip leads her to uncover a shocking conspiracy wrought by some of the most prominent figures in government. Their aim: assassinate the first woman president of the United States, whose policies could endanger their shadowy activities.

As Sloane frantically pieces together a series of strange but seemingly unrelated events, the trail leads her to the Handyman, an enigmatic killer-for-hire whose reputation is built on his unerring tenacity. Now, she finds herself caught in a deadly game of high-stakes international intrigue, in which the wrong move may be her last.

Editorial Reviews

Baltimore Sun
Sizzling thrillers have been Philip Shelby's metier, and By Dawn's Early Light proves no exception....A keen sense of international finance and the political atmosphere charged by money and power.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Suspicion, suspense, thrills and mystifications....A lively, enthralling fable forcefully told.
Time Out
There's all kinds of intrigue and action....The complexity of the novel takes on a life of its own as you hurtle towards its breathless conclusion in this perfect mix of interesting characters and cunning maneuvering.
Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
Pitched as "in the tradition of best-selling author David Baldacci," this "stale and hohum" thriller takes readers deep inside the world's greatest intelligence agencies in a global race that could change the world. "Let me count the ways this plot has been done before," said most.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What's at stake in Law's first book, a fast-paced thriller, is nothing less than peace in the Middle East, and it rests on the shoulders of Ben Poltarek, a young American Jew who doesn't immediately realize he's a crucial link in a legacy of assistants, or sayanim, who make up "part of Israel's secret army abroad, soldiers who held no rank, wore no uniform, received no recognition...." Ben's father has been a sayan for 40 years, and the night he and his wife are killed in a hit-and-run, a bleeding man stumbles into Ben's house, delivers sensitive information meant for Ben's father and promptly dies of multiple bullet wounds. It takes many pages of background information to explain the events leading up to this deadly and mysterious case of mistaken identity, which boils down to two hunters, each hunting the other. Jamal is a psychotic Palestinian terrorist obsessed with carving a Palestinian state out of Israel, whatever the cost. Landau is his Israeli archenemy, determined to destroy Jamal and restore peace to the long-embittered negotiations. Working alone, the madman Jamal has scripted Palestine's path to sovereignty. His plan involves manipulating the president of the U.S., the president's son, and the wife of a murdered Palestinian diplomat--and it's into this danger that Ben wades with the help of his devoted fianc e, Rachel, secretly a sayan herself. Though fast-paced and exciting, the narrative suffers from an excess of action without the psychological character building required to make the reader care about the targets of all the bullets pinging around. The key characters strain credulity when they repeatedly make guesses that are too conveniently accurate. Nonetheless, Law successfully moves his narrative from Washington, D.C., to the Middle Eastern desert, to Paris and back to D.C. with barely a pause for breath, and his complicated, clever plot makes for an authentic page-turner. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly
With each new book, Shelby (who co-wrote The Cassandra Compact with Robert Ludlum) nicks away at one of fiction's last male bastions the foreign intrigue thriller using women as lead characters in the cloaked world of espionage. In this nail-biter about a Chinese plot to kill the U.S. president and retake Taiwan, Wall Street portfolio manager Sloane Ryder finds herself out of a job after she stumbles onto the conspiracy while investigating the dealings of a shady co-worker. Ryder is not unemployed for long: she's hired by a secret government division that has sniffed out the plan to assassinate President Claudia Ballantine. Ryder and her new colleagues soon discover that the conspiracy involves several high-ranking Chinese and U.S. government officials who intend to kill the president in a gruesome, highly creative way. The intent is to create chaos in Washington, D.C., so China has time to storm across the Sea of Taiwan and claim the island for the People's Republic. Somewhat less convincing is the character of Ryder, who remains a hard sell as someone who can trade her Wall Street power suit for a spy's trench coat. Picking up the slack, however, are two of Shelby's former heroines professional operatives Hollis Fremont and Holland Tylo as well as the Handyman, the elusive contract killer from Gatekeeper. With some creative flair, Shelby employs all the standard fiction tools of the espionage trade the rogue militants, the conspiracies within conspiracies, the untouchable behind-the-scenes villains, the flat-footed heroes and all to satisfying effect. Agent, Henry Morrison. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
What's at stake in Law's first book, a fast-paced thriller, is nothing less than peace in the Middle East, and it rests on the shoulders of Ben Poltarek, a young American Jew who doesn't immediately realize he's a crucial link in a legacy of assistants, or sayanim, who make up "part of Israel's secret army abroad, soldiers who held no rank, wore no uniform, received no recognition...." Ben's father has been a sayan for 40 years, and the night he and his wife are killed in a hit-and-run, a bleeding man stumbles into Ben's house, delivers sensitive information meant for Ben's father and promptly dies of multiple bullet wounds. It takes many pages of background information to explain the events leading up to this deadly and mysterious case of mistaken identity, which boils down to two hunters, each hunting the other. Jamal is a psychotic Palestinian terrorist obsessed with carving a Palestinian state out of Israel, whatever the cost. Landau is his Israeli archenemy, determined to destroy Jamal and restore peace to the long-embittered negotiations. Working alone, the madman Jamal has scripted Palestine's path to sovereignty. His plan involves manipulating the president of the U.S., the president's son, and the wife of a murdered Palestinian diplomat--and it's into this danger that Ben wades with the help of his devoted fianc e, Rachel, secretly a sayan herself. Though fast-paced and exciting, the narrative suffers from an excess of action without the psychological character building required to make the reader care about the targets of all the bullets pinging around. The key characters strain credulity when they repeatedly make guesses that are too conveniently accurate. Nonetheless, Law successfully moves his narrative from Washington, D.C., to the Middle Eastern desert, to Paris and back to D.C. with barely a pause for breath, and his complicated, clever plot makes for an authentic page-turner. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
More conspiracy kitsch from Shelby (Gatekeeper, 1998, etc.), centering this time on those inscrutable Chinese. If only bright, beautiful, unlucky Sloane Ryder had been looking the other way when that piece of errant mail landed on her desk. Instead, in the blink of an unwary eye, she spies something she never should have, something so fraught with negative consequences for her that on the instant the young financial analyst becomes, in effect, a walking junk bond-suddenly valueless where she had been highly respected, and having no real insight into who or what might be stalking her. An authentically diabolical conspiracy, it ensnares Sloane, reaches deep into the White House, and involves some of President Claudia Ballantine's most trusted fellow travelers in the corridors of power. Consider the president's dear old friend Dodge French, for instance, the Machiavellian China wonk, who never hesitates to be treasonous if the goal is sufficiently patriotic. For a variety of convoluted reasons, he's decided it's in his country's best interest that certain secret protocols be adhered to-those that assure the return of Taiwan to mainland China, and woe betide all who get in his way. For them, there's the murderous Handyman, "one of the top four assassins in the world." He can be dispatched by his master whenever the need arises, thus adding a nuance to the phrase "French leave," as in Dodge French. In the meantime, poor Sloane-the focus of inimical forces only half understood, her career in shreds, her prospects melancholy-finally gets a break when she's recruited by Lee Porter, the Morgan Freeman look-alike, for an elite counterintelligence task force. Not only does this help her foil DodgeFrench, the Handyman, and China, but it leads to true love in the arms of a hunkish homicide cop. Turgid prose, formulaic plotting, characters as lively as wooden carvings. Your call.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684842639
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
02/26/2002
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.21(d)

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

There were forty children in Barracks 6, the orphanage section of the refugee camp in western North Korea. The youngest was five, the oldest eleven, which was the cutoff age. Twelve-year-olds were moved into the general population.

The children lived in a universe of cold, hunger, and fear that not even sleep could relieve. Each was trapped inside a brittle cocoon of pain. The room was never silent, the days and nights filled with hacking coughs and cries as sharp as piranhas' teeth.

The older ones preyed on the young when they could, for as long as they were strong enough to do so. They stole rations and water, and, when these were not to be had, they explored the parameters of their own crippled psyches by twisting limbs and breaking joints with the indifferent curiosity of seasoned torturers.

The colonel in charge of the camp stepped across the frozen mud of the compound. A year before he had inadvertently slighted a superior and was relieved of his command, banished to run this dung heap the United Nations and the International Red Cross called a displaced persons camp. But he sensed his luck was changing, all because of the man walking beside him.

The stranger was a Caucasian, tall and loose-limbed, with close-cropped iron-gray hair and the dark, weathered features of a farmer. He was in his forties or early fifties -- hard to tell because he was very fit, moving through the bitter spring air like a ghost.

The colonel had not been informed of the man's visit until the helicopter carrying him was airborne. His orders had been to cooperate fully. The camp held back many secrets from international inspectors but this visitor was to be shown anything he wanted.

Which told the colonel that the man was important. Very important. And if he served him well, it would be reported to the chain of command. Maybe a word or two from the stranger would be enough to retrieve the colonel from this purgatory.

The visitor, who was known in his trade as the Handyman, was aware of the colonel's plight. He did not care, except that it would make the man easier to handle.

The colonel threw open the door to Barracks 6 with more force than necessary. The smell of diseased flesh billowed out.

The barracks was sixty feet by thirty, divided by three rows of bunk beds. The dim lighting filtered down from weak overhead bulbs and died on the grime that covered the windows and raw plank floor. Shapes stirred on the beds and the Handyman saw feral eyes tracking his movements.

The overhead lights flickered and brightened and the Handyman gazed down upon a sight he'd witnessed in other black pits of the world -- the refugee camps of Cambodia and Laos, the Bekáa Valley and the black townships beyond Johannesburg.

Most of the children lay curled up in their bunks. It was impossible to determine their sex. All had skin yellowed by malnutrition, the same sallow faces that made their eyes inordinately large, the knobby knees and elbows with skin stretched tight over bones as brittle as chalk.

Walking between the rows of bunks, the Handyman searched among the faces, dismissing those who were too far gone, weighing those who could still be saved on scales only he had calibrated.

The role of savior unsettled him. At any given time, he was regarded as one of the top four assassins in the world, doling out death on grains of metal and with an unerring eye. His employers were governments or individuals who could afford his fee. But this job was unlike any other he had undertaken. He was to select and to protect, and might never be called upon to pull the trigger.

The Handyman caught a glimpse of the child through the support beams of the other bunks, lying on the mattress, his back pressed against a wall. He was eight, maybe nine years old, thin but not yet emaciated, staring out into space, his expression vacant. But his eyes were still clear, like those of a freshly caught fish laid out on ice.

Moving closer, the Handyman drew in a sharp breath. The child was a doppelgänger, almost an exact double of the child he had been searching for up and down the frozen wastes of this godforsaken land for the last few weeks.

The Handyman slipped onto the edge of the bunk. He reached for the boy, felt him flinch when he touched his shoulder. The boy resisted for a second, then let the strong hand roll him over. There was dried blood on the seat of his pants, indicating that the child had recently been assaulted. The Handyman peeled back the filthy shirt, checked the arms, chest, and back. There were sores and blisters, but nothing was broken -- except the life behind those vacant eyes, a wasteland.

The Handyman rose. He had been the instrument for some of the most audacious killings men could devise and he had carried out his assignments flawlessly. But this assignment was beyond anything he had ever imagined. Looking at the boy, he saw a perfect killing machine, a child so innocent that he would overcome every hurdle, every obstacle, every watcher between him and his intended target. The President of the United States, Claudia Ballantine, would actually feel this child's embrace before she died.

The Handyman turned to the colonel. "Who is this boy?"

"He has no name. He comes from the southeast."

The Handyman knew all about the mass graves that fertilized the fields of that region. Safe to assume that the boy's parents and other relatives would never come looking for him.

"The boy is designated number 1818," the colonel volunteered.

The Handyman gave the colonel his full attention, which caused the officer's mouth to go dry.

"Get him out of here. Have a doctor examine him for an infection and give him the necessary antibiotics. I want him clean and ready to travel in three hours."

The Handyman paused. "My report will comment on your cooperation, provided that everything is in order."

The officer's Adam's apple jutted against the knot of his tie.

"Of course."

"Then we are finished here."

The Handyman took one last look at the boy, then made his way outside. After the stench of the barracks, the cold air was welcome. Pulling out cigarettes, he offered the colonel one and lit one for himself. He hadn't been quite honest when he'd said he was finished here. The colonel was the only witness to 1818's existence. He might be inclined to talk about the man who had come looking for a special child, brag about his role in finding him. In view of the project's importance, this possibility was unacceptable. Therefore, the colonel would have to cooperate further, by dying when the Handyman returned for 1818.

Copyright © 2002 by by Philip Shelby

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