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"Fortify your shelf of Armageddon thrillers with this promising newcomer."
"Stebbins has his finger on the pulse of greed, disillusionment and the search for redemption in this pulse-pounding debut."
-RT Book Reviews, Four Stars (Compelling-Page-turner)
"The Ragnarök Conspiracy is truly an excellent read even for those, such as myself, who do not normally read the thriller genre. It is thought-provoking as much as it is readable. And I highly recommend it."
"Meticulously researched and beautifully written, The Ragnarök Conspiracy turns the traditional terrorist thriller on its head. Erec Stebbins's debut novel signals the arrival of a monster new talent in the thriller genre."
-Allan Leverone, author of The Lonely Mile
"This timely thriller is filled with exciting events from beginning to end, engaging characters, great conflicts, profound thoughts, and lots of suspense. The fury seldom stops, with twists and turns around every corner."
-William Greenleaf, author of Bloodright and The Tartarus Incident
"A sweeping, gripping tale of terror. John Savas is a believable character, and his race to stop the madman is heart stopping."
-Jack King, author of WikiJustice
The smoke in the bar created a dense fog, infiltrating every open space, staining curtains and nearly obscuring the obligatory "No Smoking" sign. Here in a rundown basement, New York City health regulations held no concern for those seated around the jazz band.
A second group of patrons displayed no interest in the music. Huddled in dark corners, their faces turned inward and away from the room, pairs of often foul-looking men spoke of matters suited to the obscurity of the location.
Savas clenched his jaw. He'd been waiting too long, and this was a dangerous game. His recent injuries tore at his concentration, and fatigue began to set in. He should not be here; he knew that. His choices had not pleased the physicians. But they don't understand.
He stared at the whiskey in front of him. Now only a prop. Once poison and self-medication. Beginning on a rain-drenched night at the Church of the Holy Trinity in 2001, he had nearly drowned in a downward spiral, skipping work, drinking himself into numbness each night. He had known it was wrong, but he couldn't find his way out. Soon he had lost more than just his job. Or his home. Or his wife. After his son's death, he had lost himself.
He hadn't touched a drop now for nearly a decade. Not since the day he'd made that life-changing trip to the FBI. Thank God for friends in high places who had believed in him. Friends who had connected him to a new and experimental division of the FBI seeking unusually motivated recruits. Friends who had brought his file to the attention of Larry Kanter, the new branch chief, a man determined to rewrite the rules of antiterrorism, beginning with unorthodox methods and staff. Kanter had seen something in Savas, his past record of achievement at NYPD and the spark in his eyes at the mention of antiterrorism. As he would do with many others, Kanter had taken a chance on John Savas, and he had been amply rewarded. Savas had been granted a new lease on life. Beyond that. He had been given a mission.
At the sound of a moaning door hinge, Savas returned sharply to the present. He glanced up discreetly, his slovenly posture belying his inner intensity.
A large man stepped inside, his appearance clashing sharply with the interior of the bar. The battered trench coat poorly concealed his expensive tailored clothes. His skin was a sandy brown, his features faintly Arabic but obscured by the fat deposited over many years of high living. His stance indicated a man of power, now unsure of his footing. As the door closed behind him, two hulking bodyguards remained posted outside. The man nodded, almost imperceptibly, toward a lone drinker near the door, a carbon copy of the two guards outside. The man had obviously sent in a scout and had brought more muscle with him.
Savas swiftly returned his gaze to his drink and smiled to himself. His contact was anxious; frightened men were far easier to manipulate. Now the trap will be set.
The Arab walked slowly toward Savas at the back of the room. His eyes darted in several directions, and he approached the booth like a hunted animal. He slid into the opposite seat, placing his hands on the table. "This place is not safe."
Savas looked up from his whiskey and nodded, his olive skin blending subtly into the stained wood behind him. He scratched the three-day growth of beard on his face, a useful contribution to the role-playing game he undertook with his criminal contacts. Along with his dress and body language, it had become part of the dangerous act often required to infiltrate terrorist networks that were all too real and growing in America. His friend across the table was as big a fish as Savas had ever hooked.
"What place is safe?" he replied, a false Greek accent, modeled on his immigrant grandfather's, partially garbling the words. He spread out his hands on the table. "You want to be safe, sell smartphones. You want to bring in your shipments, talk to me."
The Arab once again glanced around the room.
He is very frightened.
"Dimitri," began the Arab, "I have my connections. We must know who we deal with. Your name doesn't show up on any shipping records. Your prints don't match anything in any database. You don't seem to exist."
Savas mulled this turn of events. His contact was indeed becoming paranoid. He thanked his own paranoia that forced him to insist on the latex false-skin worn over his fingertips. He only hoped these guys didn't have access to DNA analysis. "Ambassador Hamid," he began with his most crooked smile, "I have been a disservice?"
The ambassador rumbled deeply over the bar sounds. "No. But before we go further, we need to know more."
Savas shook his head slowly. He hoped his cover had not been blown. He felt the bulge from his pistol and wondered how he could survive a firefight if the man turned his goons on him. "If you know more, it's not so good for me, katalaves?" He held up his hands. "No one knows these hands, Ambassador. My business is better with shadows. Not you, not the Americans, no one knows Dimitris."
"Is that your real name?"
Savas only smiled. "I have boats. Good boats, also shadows. Never traced. We pay good money so they stay shadows. If you change your mind, then find other boats." He paused dramatically. "If you can."
The ambassador looked distinctly uncomfortable. Savas did not envy the man and the two-faced game he played at the UN. His position gave him tremendous opportunities to exploit weaknesses in US security. But he risked much to play the role of a terrorist pawn, whatever they paid him. Savas didn't fool himself that Ambassador Hamid was any kind of idealist. He was simply the greedy scum that enabled the monsters.
The ambassador whispered tensely, "We would have been less uncertain if you hadn't disappeared for a month!"
Savas had anticipated this. His injuries from the Indian Point insanity had pulled him off the street. Hamid had asked for meetings he could not honor. Dimitris the smuggler had simply disappeared. "It was, as the Americans say, too hot, Ambassador. Dimitris was in danger."
The look of fear in the ambassador's eyes was unmistakable, and the depth of it shocked Savas. "Danger? From where? Who knows about you? Can they connect you to me?"
The fake Greek captain waved his hand up and down toward the ambassador. "No danger, no discovery. After those bombs at Indian Point, the FBI was very busy. Nuclear power plants make them very nervous, no? Everyone was quiet."
"FBI?" the frightened man asked, almost desperately.
"Yes, FBI. Who else?"
The man visibly relaxed. Relaxed! Whatever Ambassador Hamid was afraid of, it was not the FBI or discovery by US law enforcement. On the one hand, Savas was relieved, pleased that his cover was not blown, that he still had a hook in this big fish. He was also disturbed. What would frighten this man so much that arrest, and possible life sentencing by the FBI, seemed a relief in comparison?
"Who, indeed?" said the ambassador, a false and awkward smile forced onto his wide face. Again he glanced around nervously, then checked his watch. "Then we are still good. If you do not disappear again! But we must meet in more protected locations." Hamid seemed to have finished an internal argument of some kind. "Captain Dimitris, we will have our deal."
Savas put on his greediest grin, but he was also smiling internally. Swallow the bait whole, Ambassador. Soon the FBI would have a catch of unprecedented visibility, but only after they had exploited Hamid to obtain all the underground contacts this octopus's tentacles reached. Then they would crash on him hard, force more information out of him to save his skin, and toss him in jail until he was too old to remember his lucrative moonlighting. Diplomatic immunity be damned.
The ambassador continued. "We will contact you when we are ready. It will be soon. You will come to a place we designate." Savas groaned inwardly; the ambassador was introducing complications.
"Of course, Ambassador. But, after Indian Point, business is much more difficult. More expensive. You understand?"
The ambassador hardly frowned. "Yes, of course. This was anticipated." Savas nearly laughed out loud. How predictable the criminal mind. "What are your terms?"
Savas knew he had to drive a hard bargain to cement his character. "Double, Mr. Ambassador, and a quarter in advance."
"So is whatever you want to smuggle in."
The man nodded. "We will consider it and be in contact."
Hamid rose, having never ordered a drink, and checked again with the bodyguard by the door. He then walked with his nervous glances back across the bar to the exit. The seated goon followed him out, and Savas could see them through the window standing together, waiting for their driver.
Savas pushed his untouched drink to the side. There was much to consider, much to plan in this setup. He would return to the FBI and talk to Kanter. They would need enormous resources to bring in Hamid. After two years of tedious work, slowly bringing to life the character of Savas's Greek smuggler, luring several interested parties into the net, Savas had hit the jackpot. The monsters needed gremlins to sneak them in, and there were always greedy men like Hamid to serve in those roles. Relying on them was a weakness, a trail back to the hive. Savas intended to exploit it.
A sharp sound tore through his consciousness—a strong slap from outside. He could instantly visualize several possible weapons involved, but his mind lurched away from the details, and he stood up, looking through the window.
The music had stumbled to an awkward halt. People in the bar were screaming and backing away from the window. Like the first stages of a Jackson Pollock commission, red paint seemed to have been flung sharply across the glass, thick, languid drops tracing slow paths toward the sidewalk from a central bull's-eye. Crumbled on the ground against the glass was a figure in a trench coat, three large forms bent in panic over it, screaming into cell phones. The back of the coat had a fist-sized hole blown out of it and, like the window, was stained in bright red.
Savas was dumbfounded. Within seconds, years of work had collapsed along with that form. Important and carefully orchestrated openings into international terrorist organizations had slammed shut. As chaos erupted and patrons scrambled to exit the bar, Savas stood still, staring at the downed shape outside, knowing too well that it would not rise. The shot was perfect, through the heart, the bullet chosen and aimed by a professional.
Ambassador Hamid had been assassinated.
Excerpted from THE RAGNARÖK CONSPIRACY by EREC STEBBINS Copyright © 2012 by Erec Stebbins. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted May 8, 2013
The Ragnarök Conspiracy is a unique thriller with a fascinating premise:
imagine a Western terrorist organization formed by someone every bit as
crazy as bin Laden but whose view of the world was anti-Muslim, anti-Islam.
This group begins a series of acts designed to provoke world conflict between
the Western world and the Islamic world. Now, throw in a protagonist, an FBI
agent who has his own issues with Muslims and Islam because his son,
a police officer, died on 9/11. Light a match with a Muslim CIA agent he has
to work with and the novel explodes with personal conflict, action, and some
serious examination of who we are as a nation and how we respond to a very
real threat. Do we dig down and do "all that is necessary", including sacrificing
our core principles, to protect ourselves? Is there a way to balance security and
liberty, etc? Great questions only a few libertarians and screwball lefties are
asking these days, and this novel gets you thinking about them even as
buildings blow up, bullets fly, and world war approaches.
Contrary to "Anonymous-1" who reviewed the novel, Dick Cheney isn't a main
plot element (did this reviewer actually read the novel?). In fact he hardly
appears in the book!! So, don't get your plot ideas from a half-baked review
that doesn't seem to even know what happened in the book
(and, Anonymous-1, please get a proof-reader, really -- my goodness)
Not to say the book is perfect, several weaknesses come to mind (the requisite
romance subplot- eh; It can also be a bit academic/preachy, but overall, not a
half bad debut in the genre!
So: If you want a competent thriller that is VERY different from the pack,
go ahead and give The Ragnarök Conspiracy a try.
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Posted May 2, 2013
I will not recommend Ragnarok Conspiracy by Eric Stebbins to anyone. The main character was an analyst for the FBI. This seems to have been done before by other serial authors…think a Tom Clancy novel, but this author needed a twist to have his book stand out from the pack. He found one. Unlike other novels of this genre, he made American civilians the evil doers, killing innocent people in public places. It was too easy a mark to spend the first half of the book implying that Vice-President Cheney was the architect of all evil. It was offensive that his villains were errant ex-Seals or Special Ops.
I appreciated that the hero was a black, Muslim convert formerly a juvenile delinquent gang member who had a change in course when he converted to the Muslim religion in prison. I would love if that story line would be reality based. I must add that it seemed a bit unrealistic to have the hero donned in white robes climb a skyscraper like Spider Man. The white robe didn’t seem to be realistic attire for his heroic plane hopping, bomb dismantling chapter either.
I was shocked to learn that this novel was inspired by the author Eric Stebbins witnessing the attack on 9/11 from his Manhattan apartment. He might have thought at that time there would be vigilante vengeance retaliation as suggested in this novel, but since this book was published in 2012, Mr. Stebbins had enough time to learn that Americans have gone out of their way to be politically correct and not target the average Muslim, nor their Mosques.
I do not recommend this book, nor would I see the movie. America has a hard enough time with its image to have one of its educated own write such a tale. Instead of a thriller, it is pure fantasy. America is not always the bad guy… Just last week two Muslim boys in Boston killed people including an 8 year old innocent boy and maimed countless others in acts of terror at the Boston Marathon. I don’t expect the victims’ families nor will the former Vice-President Dick Chaney be targeting innocent Muslims in acts of revenge.
Posted January 15, 2013
Attacks seen around the world on Muslims - whether terrorists or not - become the defining moments of this novel. In the course of the book John Savas stumble upon an unexpected conspiracy - though the conspiracy is known to some deep within the US government, the source of the conspiracy is not.
The result is an exciting story that is difficult to put down. In order to make faster time through the book, I took the time to have the story read to me using my Kindle (version 2) using the built in text to speech feature. If the reader is looking for an exciting few hours of time, this book may just fill the bill. Though a scholar in Microbiology, this appears to be the author's first attempt at a full length novel - a good job.
This review is based on a free electronic copy of this book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.
Posted November 13, 2012
Erec Stebbins forces us to take a good look at ourselves and our potential to become the very monsters we wish to drive out of the world in this page turner. Motivated to write this story by the tragedy of 9/11, Mr. Stebbins weaves a tale of intrigue in which a fallen cop turned FBI agent begins to follow a trail of seemingly unrelated murders. What starts as a basic sting operation spirals out of control into a worldwide series of bombings that begins to push the world to the brink of a third world war.
Stebbins' characters struggle with the losses they have suffered as a result of the actions of individual madmen who happen to be killing in the name of Islam. At the same time, they are confronted with the possibility that they, too, could be considered by the Islamic world to be terrorists acting in the name of Christianity.
It's a high-pitched ride that takes us all over the world, with only a few moments to catch our breath before we're flung over to another part of the world and then back again, always wondering how the final encounter will play out.
There are a few moments when I asked myself why the protagonists' superiors are so reluctant to see what are obvious connections to me the reader, but I was able to write these off as either a portrayal of how the bureautocracy is slow to understand what a handful of smart individuals are able to see or as something that my power to suspend disbelief should just quickly wipe away so that I could enjoy the rest of the story. In these parts of the book I believe that Stebbins is probably venting his frustration with the large and somewhat clumsy organizational structures that tend to make governments so slow to react to problems that are pressing and can't wait for the approval of five or ten higher-ups for action. As the parent of a kindergartener, I can completely sympathize with this point of view given the struggles that we have already had with the public school system in this country!
If you are about to step on a plane or live through a major climate event such as a hurricane (like I did), then I recommend you pick this book up beforehand. It's a quick read and it will be hard for you to put it down.
Posted November 12, 2012
This is me branching out of my teen ya reading list. This book I read Fearless earilier this year and was blown away and now again I am speechless. This book was great. And the use of Runes was great! I love the book cant wait for more!
"*I received a copy of this book for free to review, this in no way influenced my review, all opinions are 100% honest and my own."