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Red Sea
     

Red Sea

by Emily Benedek
 

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Four airliners are blown out of the sky--a devastating string of attacks taking hundreds of lives and striking fear into people and governments around the globe. Marie Petterssen, an ambitious young aviation reporter, has a hunch about the crashes, and her suspicions are confirmed when she's approached by Julian Granot, an Israeli airline-security expert and former

Overview

Four airliners are blown out of the sky--a devastating string of attacks taking hundreds of lives and striking fear into people and governments around the globe. Marie Petterssen, an ambitious young aviation reporter, has a hunch about the crashes, and her suspicions are confirmed when she's approached by Julian Granot, an Israeli airline-security expert and former Special Forces commando who has noticed her work.

Julian offers Marie a rare lead, one that will send her to London and later into the devastation of war-torn Iraq. With the help of a maverick FBI agent, Morgan Ensley, Marie stumbles onto the makings of a terrorist plot well beyond the destruction of airliners: the detonation of a rogue nuclear device in New York Harbor. The terrorists know that America's most vulnerable spot is its transportation system, and the mean to exploit it. Time is short.

But Marie is in the grip of circumstances beyond her control. Julian's intentions are unclear: Is he helping a journalist uncover answers the world craves, or is he setting up the woman to flush out an Islamic terrorist who killed Julian's partner twenty years earlier?

Julian holds the key, but Marie's role in the frantic race to unravel the plot grows when she learns that she may be tied to the terrorist leader in a more personal way.

Author Emily Benedek was writing an article on counterterrorism for Newsweek when she came into contact with a high-level Israeli counterterrorism expert. Due to his ongoing role in international investigations, much of what she learned in the course of their talks could only be told in a novel. What emerges from thse meetings is a bone-chilling story of suspense, as thrilling as it is plausible.

Editorial Reviews

Bookreporter.com
Although Emily Benedek is known primarily as a journalist from her dispatches in such publications as Newsweek and Rolling Stone, she has also authored a number of nonfiction works, two of which concern American Indian issues and one that deals with her own spiritual journey. This time out, Benedek makes her fiction debut with Red Sea, a novel that will alter your worldview.... More than a great debut, Red Sea introduces a cast of characters that, should Benedek be desirous of such, would easily sustain an ongoing franchise. It simply doesn't get any better than this.
Publishers Weekly

This fiction debut from journalist Benedek (Through the Unknown, Remembered Gate: A Spiritual Journey) opens with a horrifying and credible scenario-the downing of three commercial jets, which results in the deaths of 723 people and plunges the world into a 9/11-like panic. Though none of the airlines involved is El Al, recently retired Israeli secret agent and aviation expert Julian Granot is tapped by his government to investigate. When Aviation Monthlyjournalist Marie Peterssen asks Julian for an interview, he uses her request to forge a professional relationship that he hopes will lead to more clues. Readers learn early on that Julian's old nemesis, Islamic extremist Mansour Obaidi, is the mastermind behind the crime, but Obaidi has bigger fish to fry as a massive container ship carrying a hellish mix of explosives heads toward New York City. Benedek offers lots of hot operational material and an exciting denouement, but thriller fans will find little that's really new, and the open ending, which promises a sequel, is less than convincing. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

The world's intelligence services are riveted by their investigations of four crashed jetliners, but a far dirtier game is afoot. Working separately at first, the Israelis and the Americans unearth traces of a well-advanced plot to explode three nuclear warheads in the heart of the sea lanes approaching New York City. Then Israeli agent Julian Granot recruits an American journalist and an FBI agent to foil the plot before Armageddon erupts. While not a roman à clef, this debut thriller by a seasoned reporter (Remembered Gate: A Spiritual Journey) purports to arise from the experiences of a real Israeli counterterrorism expert. Combining the nuts and bolts of a technothriller with the emotional resonance of young adventurers seeking truth and honor, Benedek's very readable, densely plotted, and cagily realistic saga-squeezed into two heart-pounding weeks-will have readers anticipating further escapades for her trio. Strongly recommended for popular fiction collections.
—Barbara Conaty

From the Publisher
"The world's intelligence services are riveted by their investigations of four crashed jetliners, but a far dirtier game is afoot. Working separately at first, the Israelis and the Americans unearth traces of a well-advanced plot to explode three nuclear warheads in the heart of the sea lanes approaching New York City. Then Israeli agent Julian Granot recruits an American journalist and an FBI agent to foil the plot before Armageddon erupts. While not a roman à clef, this debut thriller by a seasoned reporter (Remembered Gate: A Spiritual Journey) purports to arise from the experiences of a real Israeli counterterrorism expert. Combining the nuts and bolts of a technothriller with the emotional resonance of young adventurers seeking truth and honor, Benedek's very readable, densely plotted, and cagily realistic saga—squeezed into two heart-pounding weeks—will have readers anticipating further escapades for her trio. Strongly recommended for popular fiction collections." —Library Journal (starred review)

“A fine thriller... Emily Benedek is a tremendous young talent.” —-Stephen Coonts, author of The Traitor

“Emily Benedek’s realistic and factual thriller about terrorism is not only a heart-stopping read, it informs as much as it entertains.” —-Naomi Ragen, author of The Covenant and The Saturday Wife

Red Sea is filled with complex plot twists and memorable characters, plus a chilling vision of a terrorist attack even deadlier than 9/11. Ms. Benedek obviously knows her stuff, and it shows on every page.” —-Nelson DeMille, author of Wild Fire

“Emily Benedek is one hell of a writer! Red Sea never lets up from its gripping start, where airliners are blown out of the sky over the Atlantic, right to its page-turning conclusion in New York City. Red Sea announces the arrival of a breathtaking new voice.” —-Stephen J. Cannell, author of White Sister

“A gripping foray into the world of terrorism. Benedek has done her homework.…A whirlwind ride.”—-–Steven Emerson, founder of The Investigative Project on Terrorism and author of Jihad Incorporated.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780641884481
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
09/18/2007
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
9.52(w) x 7.22(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

International Airspace, May 5

At thirty thousand feet, American Airlines Flight 147 from Paris to Boston flew according to routine. Airline food wasn’t what it used to be, but in first class at least, the drinks were good. The crew had just finished a meal specially prepared by a Parisian eatery catering to airline personnel. Captain Jack Kelly switched autopilot on and leaned back. “Did you see that new girl?” he asked his copilot. “The one with tits out to here?” He gestured with his hands toward the instrument panel.

At that moment, he felt a shock in the belly of his Boeing 767. He hurriedly scanned the instrument gauges, but before he had a chance to understand the readings, another explosion severed the cockpit from the cabin and Jack Kelly was hurtling through space, memories of the pretty girl lost to black sky and the flames of exploding fuselage.

Michelle Polito stood in the midcabin bathroom of British Airways’ smart new Boeing 777. She hung over the sink, knees as weak as a baby’s. Mother of God, she hated flying! The turbulence alone was enough to kill her, that awful sensation of the ground giving way beneath her. But what was she going to do, tell thirty kids in her Queens Spanish class that they couldn’t go on a once-in-a-lifetime exchange program to Madrid because their teacher was afraid to fly? She checked her ashen face in the mirror and noticed that the turbulence was over. She waited another few seconds to make sure the calm was holding before she turned on the faucet and splashed cold water on her face. She dried her hands, gave her cheeks a few pinches to bring some color back, and stepped out of the bathroom.

Seeing the children jumping and playing brought a smile back to her face. She felt that everything was going to be fine when she heard a bang and then a dreadful thumping as a seam opened up in the cabin floor before her. A shriek tore through her as she watched Maryann Angelides and her American Girl doll get sucked through the hole. Right behind her went Ishmael Cordoba, seat and all, who was playing cards with his best friend, Anthony Apt.

Chang Lee, a flight attendant on Cathay Pacific’s medium hop from Hong Kong to Singapore, had just begun beverage service when a businessman in row 3 asked for a Fresca. Finding none on his cart, Lee headed to the galley. He noticed a wisp of smoke curling from one of the forward overhead compartments. As Lee reached up to unclip the latch, a tremendous blast flung him backward and then he was floating, slipping, as if down a water slide. Cold and wet and dark. He thought of the Fresca, then drifted away, his arms and legs buffeted by the wind. His face was burning hot but he was cold as ice, and before he could think about what had happened, he could no longer take a breath.

Turquoise Coast, Turkey, May 5

Julian Granot cut a U-turn with his Jet Ski, churning the water into a tall fan of spray, then accelerated back toward his sons. The boys’ parallel wakes converged toward the horizon, and the sun sparkled off the waters of the Mediterranean Sea at the Granot family’s Turquoise Coast vacation spot. Lore held that the ancient peoples of this land had fashioned the word turquoise to describe the astonishing shade of the water, eventually deciding the country itself could be no better named: Turkuaz.

While Julian and his boys turned their games into sea-land strategy drills, his wife, Gabi, painted watercolors at water’s edge. Her large kilim bag muffled the ring of her cell phone, as if trying to bar the outside world. She answered it. General David Ben-Ami grunted hello. He was head of Shabaq, Israel’s internal security service, the Israelis’ equivalent of the FBI, and Gabi knew the voice well. She and Ben-Ami had grown up together, and Julian had worked with Ben-Ami in the service for the last quarter century. She recognized the clipped syllables in his speech as a sign of controlled anger.

Somewhere, someone had died, or was about to.

Gabi told him Julian was on the water, far from shore. He asked how long it would take to get her husband’s attention and wave him in. Maybe five minutes, she said. Ben-Ami added ten minutes: Julian would continue skiing after he saw his wife gesticulating with a telephone in her hand. A call at the beach invariably meant he’d be kissing his vacation good-bye. Ben-Ami knew Julian well, had commanded him and run missions with him. The man was a fine and loyal soldier, but also a stubborn son of a bitch. He needed latitude.

After attracting Julian’s eye, Gabi returned to her work. The faded pastel hues she was trying to coax from the paint were slipping away from her into the bright sky, the shimmering silver of the mountains and coves. She blotted and dabbed while trying to block out the telephone call and what it would mean. After a few more brush strokes, she saw Julian pull up to shore. He was red-haired and strong, a fit forty-six-year-old with thick legs and a muscular chest. As he dragged the Jet Ski onto the sand, Gabi told him that Ben-Ami had called and would ring back. It wasn’t thirty seconds before the telephone sounded again. The still-soaked Julian held the device away from his head. When Ben-Ami complained he couldn’t hear him, Julian joked that there might be something more affecting in the phone than a good friend’s voice. A few years back the two of them had caused a rather unhappy morning for a terrorist leader by planting a miniature bomb in his telephone earpiece.

Ben-Ami let out a short laugh. It was no time for jokes, he said, and explained: three commercial jets down within the last hour. Julian flushed deeply as he listened. He took these crashes personally, and though he was no longer directly responsible for the safety of airline passengers, he felt the familiar stomach-clenching reaction. His mind raced as if he were still on the job. Had he overlooked something, failed to make a crucial connection in the never-ending loop of intelligence clues? Habits of mind, forged through training, hard work, or even a long marriage, were hard to break. They never disappeared completely.

“I’ll have a plane pick you up in ninety minutes,” Ben-Ami was saying. “You’ll be met at the airport in Tel Aviv and driven here.” A fleet of private planes was available to the State of Israel on request, and the government had emergency landing rights for those planes at most of the world’s major airports. Julian had negotiated many of those rights himself. He checked his watch. Ben-Ami hadn’t asked whether he could make it. And Julian hadn’t answered.

His sons splashed and shouted in the waves. They were getting big now, and muscular. The oldest one was almost a man. When Julian turned to his wife, he saw a shadow cross her face. Their life together had been full of interruptions and surprises. There had been ten years in an active unit that was routinely mobilized at any time of night or day, and ten more years of foreign postings. But who ever got used to the silence, the waiting for loved ones to come home? Who could?

“Three commercial jets have disappeared and are believed to have crashed.” Julian spoke to Gabi in the combination of Hebrew and English that had developed into a family patois after years of living in the States. “David wants me to head a ministry task force to investigate.”

Gabi winced, saddened at the thought of the planes and the deaths, the families left to their shock and pain, at night and alone with nothing for comfort but the official papers in their hands. She thought especially of the new orphans. Like most Israelis, Gabi was all too familiar with the nearness of death.

The worst of it, which came much later, was that the survivors would never find any sense in the deaths. Understanding brought no relief. There was nothing to understand. The terrorists didn’t know their victims, didn’t care about their particularities. To their killers, the dead weren’t people, only statistics, body counts. Those who loved them didn’t matter at all. The survivors were then left with an unbearable choice: to live choked with rage and hatred, or fight their way back to life through some form of forgiveness, bitter as it might be.

“When will it end?” she muttered, standing and pulling on her sweater. She wore a blue bandeau around her shapely hips and a wide-brimmed straw hat with a sage green ribbon. Her light-colored hair hung straight to her shoulders. She was two years younger than her husband and her face was still youthful and vibrant, not yet marked by the anxiety that prematurely aged the faces of many of her countrywomen. She looked out at the boys, playing so happily, and felt in her chest a familiar flutter. Soon these beautiful children would be in the army themselves. So would all their friends, girls and boys alike.

“What should we do?” she asked Julian, stepping toward him and placing her hand gently on his forearm.

“All airplanes have been grounded,” he said, “so you can’t leave.” He grinned at her. “You’re stuck here in this enchanted place with your two favorite boys!”

She stuck out her lower lip in a girlish way she usually didn’t allow herself. She’d run missions for Mossad for fifteen years before leaving to teach college, and she’d earned her comrades’ respect several times over. But these last few weeks of Julian’s retirement had softened her, allowed her to imagine that life might return to normality, whatever that was. And she wanted him to be here. Julian put his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. “I’ll let you know in a couple days how you can return. Everything will be okay,” he said. “Kiss the boys for me, will you?” he asked, stepping back.

She nodded and he embraced her again, smelling the vanilla scent of her skin. “Be good,” he said, his deep voice dropping off. Fatigue. Or was it sadness, she wondered, as he disappeared across the beach, his feet digging petal shapes in the fine white sand.

Copyright © 2007 by Emily Benedek. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Emily Benedek’s writing has appeared in Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. She spent a year following an FBI special agent and SWAT team operator and wrote about an American F15-C fighter pilot who flew in Operation Shock and Awe. Red Sea is her first novel.

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