The Devil's Shepherdby Steven N. Hartov
Jan Krumlov claims to know the
Israeli intelligence agents Eytan Eckstein and Benni Baum are paired once again in this thriller about espionage, betrayal, and redemption. Having just escaped with their lives from a harrowing operation in war-torn Africa, the duo must return to the Dark Continent to extract a Czech defector from the hands of his would-be assassins.
Jan Krumlov claims to know the identity of a mole deep within the covert Israeli nuclear weapons program, so Jerusalem's spy masters have no choice but to spirit him back to friendly territory. But the name of the atomic spy is just the first of Krumlov's secrets, and as Operation Sorcerer progresses, Eckstein and Baum suddenly find themselves marked men hunted by ruthless Ethiopian rebels and shadowy gunmen determined to block their escape.
With a vortex of intrigue and the thunder of gunfire, The Devil's Shepherd hurtles toward a breathtaking climax that crackles with the kind of action and atmosphere only a veteran soldier and master storyteller like Steven Hartov could create.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 6.41(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.16(d)
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April 26, 1993
Major Eytan Ecksteinprayed that the bullets would kill him before he heard the gunfire.
Such was the way of ballistics, especially across open water, and he wrestled the urge to look back from the prow of his black Zodiac assault boat at the fading strip of midnight beach. Even at this range of half a kilometer, the heavy 7.62 mm round of a Dragunov sniper rifle could leap out faster than the speed of sound and sever his dreams, long before its sonic report reached his dying ears. If he was lucky, he would feel virtually nothing at all.
"Zeh beseder. It's all right," he silently persuaded himself in Hebrew. "Ahf echad lo echieh ltamid Nobody lives forever."
He paddled on, first the right side, then the left, watching his aluminum oar blade slice a flat sea shimmering with the pearls of an evil moon. The blazing orb should not have been up there at all; it was supposed to be obscured by clouds, and he cursed the army meteorologists and tried to think. Of nothing. Not of home, not of his wife, not of his son. There is no future. There is only now. Like the moments before a parachute jump, thoughts were your nemeses, instincts your only allies. Fantasy brought fear, fear broke concentration, and a flagging brain would react a split second too late, and then ...
Just row, he ordered that other Eckstein, the cold professional one, while the hair at the nape of his neck stood straight up and stiff as the arms at a neo-Nazi rally.
The major had not always cringed at the possibility of being shot. As a young paratrooper, then an officer, and finally a senior operator with the SpecialOperations division of AMAN--Israel's military intelligence branch--he had swaggered into gunfire with the idiocy of ignorance, as do most young men whose flesh has not yet been scarred by spinning slugs of lead and brass. But later on, he had been wounded. Badly. His knee still ached from it, his memory held a vintage taste of that vicious flashback. He knew what it would feel like and he tried not to show that he trembled with the knowledge.
Ahead, the gray unlit hulk of an Israeli Navy Aliyah class missile boat bobbed clumsily in the undulating swells, engines silent, its form growing larger, but slowly, so slowly. Eckstein fought another urge, to go prone now and paddle like a madman. But his wards were huddled just behind him in the rubber Zodiac, watching their shepherd very carefully. He could feel their eyes on his back, and so he knelt, spine erect.
First the right side, then the left. Just slice the Red Sea, part the waters, think about Moses ... He grimaced slightly; chastising himself for his biblical comparisons as his muscles strained with the oar.I suspect we might be having some delusions of grandeur here, Major.
There were eleven falashas in Eckstein's "stretch" Zodiac Hurricane and eight more boats behind him, carrying a few remnants of the Ethiopian Jews who had been airlifted to Israel during Operation Solomon back in '9 1. Solomon had been a public relations triumph for Jerusalem, over 14,000 black Jews spirited to the Promised Land in less than forty-eight hours. Ethiopia's then dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, had happily snatched a thirty-five-million-dollar bribe from the Israeli government in exchange for turning a blind eye to the rescue, and promptly fled his war-torn country for Zaire.
But tonight, with the first general Ethiopian elections set for dawn and the province of Eritrea on the verge of independence, various and sundry rebel bands were pillaging the countryside, getting in their last licks. There was no one left in power to pay off, so Eckstein's mission, Operation Jeremiah, was barely Solomon's pauper cousin and strictly a covert operation.
The falashas gripped the gunwales of the rubber boat; silent, polite, mostly women and children, a couple of "old men" of fifty. A grandfather wearing an incongruous Sinatra fedora slipped a silver-plated Old Testament from his worn tweed coat and began to bob over the pages. The refugees were surely frightened, and possibly ashamed, for Eckstein had had to strip the women of their bright white shama shawls and their tin jewelry, and the handsome mothers in their burlap smocks clutched their children to their breasts, shy eyes lowered, waiting, watching.
Yet they trusted Eytan Eckstein, whom they knew only as "Anthony Hearthstone." They had listened to him when he-- came to their secret villages in Gondar, along with that burly bear of a man called "Schmidt," who was in fact Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Baum, Ecksteln's superior and SpecOps Chief of Operations. Thetwo strangers had to say no more than, "It is your turn. Come with us to Israel," and the joyous tribal leftovers of Beta Israel abandoned their meager belongings to join a month long trek by foot, wagon, truck, and finally here, to the sea.
The danger, besides the sun, starvation, and disease, was from Amin Mobote and his Oromo Liberation Front. The Oromo rebel leader was furiously jealous of the Eritrean independence bid and determined to upset the elections by any means possible. Ambushing and killing over one hundred falashas and their Israeli rescuers would do nicely. And so, as the ragtag convoy grew, following their Israeli pied pipers from Asmara to Akordat to Keren, through the searing wadis and the frosted mountains to Nakfa and Karora, and finally to the beaches of Ras Kasar, the OLF had probed. Like hyenas after wildebeest they had fallen on the weak, the slow, and the sickly who strayed.
Eckstein, Baum, and three support men from Queens Commando--the AMAN cover name of their SpecOps unit--had strict orders not to engage. But the rebels were growing dangerously bold, so on the last night before the final dash to the sea the Israelis had laid their own ambush.The Devil's Shepherd. Copyright © by Steven Hartov. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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an extremely talented writer who's been there and done it, which underscores this fast paced story with a gritty, intelligent, realism. the relationship between the primary characters adds a terrific subplot. i enthusiastically recommend this novel, however i do offer one word of caution: you'll be shortchanging yourself if you don't first read his two prior works, which together make a superb tiology of action and suspence.
As with his book The Heat of Ramadan, Hartov has, with the Devil's Shepherd, painted a portrait of multi-dimensional characters and plot twists viewed through the eyes of one who has himself charted paths in harms way on cold dark nights who also posseses Le Carre like strokes of fiction-writing mastery. The Devil's Shepherd is a global journey through treachery and danger that brings to life the sobering world of the spy, and why we are all fascinated and enamored by them.
The Devil's Shepherd, like is previous novels, THE HEAT OF RAMADAN and THE NYLON HAND OF GOD, are masterpieces of the spy and thriller genre. No one today writes spy novels like Hartov. He is up there with the best of the best like Le Carre and Forsyth. Hartov, a former Israeli Paratrooper and Aman (Israeli Military Intelligence) operative, writes with authority and an insiders knowledge. This sense of realism shows on every page. What sets Hartov's work apart from most technothrillers today is Hartov's ability to create living and breathing characters. Even the minor characters are distinct and well drawn. The characters are not supermen or superwomen, but real people with families, hopes and dreams, and fears and desires. Hartov's mastery of characterization also extends to his descriptions of time and place. His descriptions of everytihing from late night planning sessions in smoke filled rooms to covert actions in dark alleys come alive in rich, crisp detail. You will swear that you know these people and that you are there with them as they carry out their derring-do. I also think that this book, as well as his previous books, transcends the genre and will appeal to a wide range of readers who treasure a good story with rich detailed characters and locales. No matter who you are this one will surely blow you away!