4.8 16
by Richard Herman

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When a call for a Holy War unites the Arab world, a politically and militarily weakened U.S. president dispatches a squadron of F-15 fighter planes to the volatile Middle East. Reprint. NYT.  See more details below


When a call for a Holy War unites the Arab world, a politically and militarily weakened U.S. president dispatches a squadron of F-15 fighter planes to the volatile Middle East. Reprint. NYT.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Master of the techno-thriller, Herman (The Warbirds) moves from the tactical level to the strategic with this fast-paced novel of a Middle East Armageddon. In this near-future scenario, Iraq, incautiously allowed to recover fully from the Second Gulf War, joins Egypt and Syria to attack Israel, whose premier is ready to use nuclear weapons as a "firebreak'' if Iraq employs its newest, deadliest nerve gas. The grandson of U.S. President Matthew Pontowski leads the 45th Tactical Fighter Wing on a desperate mission against Iraq's chemical plants. Herman's ground and air action, particularly in the book's final 100 pages, are as exciting as any in print, and the characters, including the President, his grandson and Shoshana Tamir, the disillusioned Israeli agent who is the young fighter pilot's love interest, are convincing. Herman is less successful, however, when he moves far from the fighter's cockpit -- to, for instance, the Oval Office, where depictions of the infighting surrounding American policy-making seem like vignettes, interesting but incomplete.

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Chapter One

Gad Habish joined the crowd hurrying to work and pushed into the building with them. There was nothing to distinguish Habish from those around him: five feet eight inches tall, thinning brown hair, brown eyes, slightly overweight, a family man concerned about his kids and paying the bills. He was just another faceless bureaucrat entering another government building in the heart of Tel Aviv. Since he was only going to the second floor, he took the stairs, turned right down the corridor, and walked briskly to the end office. Once inside, the secretary sent him through another door with a smile of recognition. But that door did not lead to an office but to a steep stairwell that descended into the basement.

The stairs, the sequence of heavy doors at the bottom, and rigidly controlled access into the basement were the first signs that Gad Habish was not just another paper-pushing bureaucrat. Habish worked for Israel's Central Institute for Intelligence and Special Missions, the organization known to the world simply as Mossad.

One of the secretaries was waiting for him. She nodded to the office in the rear and arched an eyebrow. The Mossad's chief wanted to see him. Habish retrieved a thin file from a safe and ambled into the back office. The skinny, wizened gnome working at the desk did not look up and Habish sat down, waiting for his turn. The casual ways of the office were misleading, for there were strict protocols in dealing with the irascible, stubborn chief. Habish sat quietly until he was recognized.

"Are you making progress on our problem?" the chief demanded. He was staring at an expense account through the thick glassesperched on his prominent, red-veined nose. From the flush of the gnome's face and the reddening of his ears, Habish judged that some agent had spent too much money on an operation. Around Mossad, the chief was nicknamed Ganef, the Yiddish word for "thief," for the way he stole from his agents when he disallowed their expenses and made them pay out of their own pockets.

"Some. I think this is the key." Habish handed the man a thin folder from his file. "She's finished her first six months of training and has been given a field-training assignment with a citrus export firm."

"Why is she the key?" the Ganef asked.

Habish handed over another folder. "Because this young Iraqi male, Is'al Nassir Mana, purchases magazines filled with nude photos of her type. " The silence on the other side of the desk warned Habish to be quiet as the old man scanned the folder. Habish had never heard of Mana until the previous week when the woman running the Baghdad station for Mossad had traveled to India for a routine debrief. One of the operatives she controlled in Baghdad had stumbled onto Is'al Mana and passed his name to her, She had checked on Mana and discovered that the young man possessed three qualities Mossad might find useful. He was from a wealthy and influential family, had a degree in chemical engineering, and was responsible for developing a new chemical plant outside Kirkuk. A tornado of violence and destruction had swept through Kirkuk in the aftermath of the Kuwait war and now the Iraqi government was hiding the plant's construction amid the rebuilding going on around it. It was all carefully documented in his case folder and included in the new operations tile that Habish had opened.

"He could be a target," Habish explained. "He has a fixation on European women with big tits and, ah, rather classical figures. "

"So?" The Ganef stared coldly at his most experienced operations man.

"He's going on a working vacation to Marbella on the Costa del Sol in Spain. He's negotiating for petrochemical equipment the Iraqis claim they need for reconstruction. Some of it is very interesting because it could be used to make things other than insecticides. The tab is being picked up by the German chemical company WisserChemFabrik, which makes that type of machinery. Whoever gets the contract will make a very lucrative profit."

The Ganef studied the space above Habish's head. "It's amazing," he said, "how quickly it's back to business as normal for our Western European allies. They have learned nothing.

Habish agreed with his chief. Europe had easily reverted to its old habits of selling war-making machinery and techniques to Iraq once the threat to the Middle East oil had been removed and Kuwait liberated. "Well," he ventured, his voice tinged with sarcasm, "the Iraqis did promise to never, never do it again. " The Ganef was not amused. "But, " Habish continued, "this does give us a window for an agent to make contact. We have to move fast."

"Why her?" The chief was now interested.

"Besides her obvious physical qualifications, she speaks English with a slight Canadian accent. Her mother was Canadian. We can build a cover around that. Also, her psychological evaluation indicates she is capable of carrying out her assignment properly. " Habish was observing one of the more rigid protocols in the office-the Ganef had to be convinced that the right agents were assigned to a special mission. "True believers" who merely hated Arabs were unacceptable to the old man. He wanted agents who were trained to exploit, betray, seduce, and if need be, kill their target and still harbor a deep-seated aversion to what they were doing. It was his personal formula for what made a successful agent.

"She also happens to be Avi Tamir's daughter," the Ganef said. "It would be difficult if she fell into the wrong hands."

"I don't plan on sending her inside at this time," Habish said. "But if she Were detained by, shall we say, the correct people, that might open up some interesting opportunities for new channels."

"Your 'opportunities' are often too rushed, too dangerous. "

"They do work if properly developed," Habish replied.

"Pursue it for now," the Ganef told him. "I want to see a proposed budget," Habish gathered up the file, rose, and left the office. He had just been made the case officer for a new operation.

The Director Lights on the bottom of the KC-10 indicated the F-15E was in position to hook up for an in-flight refueling. But the visual cues the pilot used to maintain station told him they had to taxi forward and climb a few feet. Close...

Firebreak. Copyright © by Richard Herman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Firebreak 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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