Whirlwind: A Novel

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Charlie McKenzie is the best at what he does, and what he does is covert operations. At least he did until the U.S. government betrayed him and he ended up in jail.

He's now a free man, but he's never forgiven the people who locked him up and wouldn't even give him a pass to attend his beloved wife's funeral. But the government is in big trouble when a beautiful Russian spy gets her hands on a top-secret "cloaking device" called Whirlwind. Only...

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Grand Haven, Michigan, U.S.A. 2004 Audio Book New New! Four Audio Cassettes. Four NEW Audio Cassette tapes shrink wrapped factory sealed in the box published by Brilliance ... Audio. Light shelf wear to the box. Lovely tapes inside. Enjoy this abridged audio performance! Read more Show Less

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Charlie McKenzie is the best at what he does, and what he does is covert operations. At least he did until the U.S. government betrayed him and he ended up in jail.

He's now a free man, but he's never forgiven the people who locked him up and wouldn't even give him a pass to attend his beloved wife's funeral. But the government is in big trouble when a beautiful Russian spy gets her hands on a top-secret "cloaking device" called Whirlwind. Only Charlie McKenzie has what it takes to find the Russian agent and retrieve the stolen device.

Charlie's smart enough to exact a huge payment for the job, and even more important, set it up so his employers can't betray him again. But even Charlie's intricate plans may fail to keep him safe when the weak-spined Secretary of State, who personally hates Charlie, brings in a murderous South African soldier of fortune and puts him on the spy's - and Charlie's - trail.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A James Bond for the AARP set, unjustly disgraced ex-CIA agent Charlie McKenzie is called out of forced retirement when a secret weapon known as Whirlwind is stolen by gorgeous Russian spy Irina. Ever the knight-errant, he decides to protect Irina against the corrupt national security adviser and the evil South African mercenary who are also pursuing her. Much bickering ensues between the paternal Charlie and the feistily independent Irina, who has father issues, until, as they are picking off henchmen with a sniper rifle, a platonic May-December romance blossoms. Garber (Vertical Run) slathers on pure Hollywood cliche, as the story proceeds inexorably from trash-talking confrontation to climactic gasoline explosion, powered by a villain who is such a Teutonic effigy of exquisite politeness and barbaric cruelty that one wonders why he isn't wearing a monocle. But the trash-talk is snappy, the villain is deliciously hateful and the plot, fast-paced enough to leap over its own holes, leaves little time to reflect on the implausibility of Charlie's feats of ratiocination, or to note that his and Irina's problems are often caused by their own special-ops showboating. Charlie, a cocky, white-haired juggernaut adored by his family, effortlessly superior to his younger antagonists and still capable of arousing-and chivalrously deflecting-the passions of 20-something Russian babes, makes a gratifying fantasy hero. Agent, Ellen Levine. Author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Charlie McKenzie, former CIA black ops specialist, thought he had the backing of the President. His mission went awry, however, and he spent two years in prison. Garber opens his latest novel (after In a Perfect State) with McKenzie's declaration that he will never help the government again. However, when the man responsible for his imprisonment comes begging for help, McKenzie reluctantly agrees, under the guarantee of a presidential pardon. A Russian spy has stolen a top-secret project code-named Whirlwind, and McKenzie has to get it back. Mechanisms are in place not only to obtain the data through other means but also to ensure that McKenzie fails, dying in his attempt at retrieval. What starts off as a clunky read quickly picks up steam, as the characters become more likable and three-dimensional. While not in the same league as Garber's best-selling Vertical Run, the story still succeeds as a white-knuckle thrill ride. For all fiction collections.-Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Run-of-the-mill escapism-fun but not distinguished-from third-timer Garber (Vertical Run, 1995, etc.). "Whirlwind" is the code-name for a new device, supposedly the most fearsome and horrific since the atom bomb. When two generators on a secret base in New Mexico blow up, Russian spy Irina Kolodenkova falls into possession of a computer disc and a 70-pound block of Whirlwind that she intends to get to the Russian embassy in San Francisco for transportation to Moscow. Sam, the angry National Security Advisor who plans to be the next president, calls in grizzled widower Charlie McKenzie, a death-proof hero in his 50s who's just finished a two-year jail term, having taken the fall for higher-ups, including Sam. Charlie had been doing dirty work (killings) for the CIA. As Sam explains to Charlie, the future of the West depends on recovering the disc and the block. Even more self-confident than James Bond, Charlie returns to duty-for $20 million-and sets off in pursuit of Irina. He quickly catches up with the gorgeous spy, who, like Charlie, is an all-purpose defensive being and supercapable. Enter Johan Schmidt, a supreme killer hired by Sam to take out Charlie once Charlie gets Whirlwind back from Irina. The long series of chases here involves Charlie's outwitting the CEO of the California DefCon company that invented Whirlwind, his fighting off Schmidt while saving Irina, and teaming up with Irina for an exciting dash across a surreal desert landscape, along with firefights showing that Irina is as sure a shot as Charlie. Meanwhile, the Chinese have a hand in the game as well. Charlie amuses with his superlative craftiness-but that's about it for originality. (N.B.: Don't confuse this spyfiction with the season's other novel named Whirlwind, a bad-weather tale by Michael Grant Jaffe, coming from Norton in October.)Agent: Ellen Levine/Trident Media Group
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593555245
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 8/17/2004
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Product dimensions: 4.14 (w) x 7.16 (h) x 1.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph R. Garber is the author of the international bestseller Vertical Run and two other novels. Prior to becoming a novelist he was a journalist and businessman. He lives in northern California, where he is working on a new thriller.
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First Chapter

A Novel

Chapter One

Ah, Vengeance!

Tuesday, July 21.
0700 Hours Eastern Time,
0500 Hours Mountain Time

Charlie McKenzie glared over the rims of his half-moon reading glasses. Shuffling his Washington Post in what he hoped was, but suspected was not, an intimidating manner, he reached for his coffee. A newspaper, a cup of coffee, a dozy cat in his lap, and a peaceful morning in which to enjoy them -- were they not every man's natural-born prerogatives?

Hugging two-year-old Jason to her hip, Carly brandished a portable telephone. "Dad," she said breathlessly. "It's the White House! The national security advisor!"

Apparently his daughter held the rights of men, or at least males, in low esteem. Charlie had no one to blame but himself. Up until the day she died, Mary had insisted that Carly certainly did not get that sort of behavior from her side of the family.

He turned in his wicker chair, looking out beyond the screened porch, past the long green expanse of a stately lawn, down to Chesapeake Bay. It was a lovely summer morning, bright but not yet hot. Perfect weather as far as the eye could see -- except in the climatological zone directly above Charlie's thundercloud brow. "Tell him to go piss up a rope."


"Tiss upa row," echoed Jason. To which Molly, aged six and peeking around her mother's skirts, added, "Mommy, Jason's saying dirty words."

"Your grandfather's influence. Again!" hissed Carly, thrusting the phone into Charlie's lap, then dragging her children away from what doubtless would be another bad example.

Charlie raised the phone to his ear. He spoke softly, gently. "Mornin', Sam."

An unctuous answer, amiability's illusion in every syllable: "Charlie! It's good to hear you, man! Thank God I caught you at home! Listen, there's a problem, a helluva problem, and the president personally asked that I call -- "

Speaking in the gentlemanly tones of a sweetly reasonable soul, Charlie interrupted. "Give him my best personal regards, and tell him I said he can screw himself."

The portable phone chirped like a digital bird as Charlie fingered the Off button.

Eight seconds, he estimated as he glanced at his outrageously garish wristwatch, a solid gold Rolex President with numbers set in colored gemstones. The preposterous thing was a gift from the Philippine government. That figured. No one in that part of the world had a bit of taste.

... three, four, five ...

As opposed, for example, to the Italians. It was one of their presidents -- who could remember which, they never stayed out of jail long enough to make memorizing their names worth the effort -- who'd given Charlie the monumentally expensive, solid silver Faema espresso maker whose ambrosia he was savoring at this very moment.

... six, seven, eight ... Ring!

Perfect timing. Charlie McKenzie never missed. Clicking the On button, he smiled beatifically, a man who had been waiting two long years for Sam to call, and who planned to enjoy himself mightily now that the rolypoly little weasel needed help. "Okay, Sam, if bunny brains doesn't know how to do it, tell him first thing he needs a dildo."

Sam's oiliness had dissipated. "Charlie, we don't have time for this."

"'Dildo' usually is synonymous with 'national security advisor,' but not this time."

Now Sam was feigning sincerity. "This is an emergency. More than an emergency. The word 'crisis' doesn't even begin -- "

"And an industrial-strength motor, the kind they use to run jackhammers."

Goodbye sincerity, hello desperation. "Okay, okay, whatever you want. Name it. It's yours." He paused, then hastily added, "Short of an apology, that is."

Charlie ran a hand down his stubbled cheek. He'd have to shave before Sam showed up on his doorstep. And that would be -- he eyed his watch -- in fifty-seven minutes. "Anything, Sam?"

"If it's in my power, yes."

Yup, definitely desperation. It was a step in the right direction. "Ten million dollars." Charlie heard a barely audible Shit! "The actuarial tables tell me I've got another thirty-five years to live. Ten million works out to about two hundred and eighty grand a year. That's not much in light of my decades of loyal and faithful service."

"Put it in T-bills, and the interest is three hundred thousand."

Charlie snorted, "Hey, Sam, if you're so good at math, how come the White House can't balance the budget?"

"Quit busting my chops." He cleared his throat before predictably wheedling, "I don't suppose I could appeal to your patriotism?"

Charlie pictured the expression on Sam's pudgy face: slit-eyed calculation. It always was. "You did that last time. This time I'll take cash."

"Damnit, man, you know there's no way I can come up with ten million -- "

"The president's discretionary fund. The unaudited and unpoliced account Congress dispenses once per annum. Everyone since Millard Fillmore has used it to pay for botched assassinations, fund quote-freedom fighters-unquote, and compensate that compliant abortionist on J Street who caters to careless interns."

"This is a pro-life administration, and you know it."

Rumor had it that beneath his exquisitely shellacked exterior, Sam concealed a dangerously explosive temper. Too bad Charlie liked playing with fireworks. "Same as every other administration, the only thing you're pro is pro-reelection."

"Jesus, what turned you into such a cynic?"

"A lifetime in government service."

There was a long silence, broken only by the nearly inaudible drum of Sam's fingers on his desk. Charlie smiled. Charlie waited. And, just as Charlie expected, Sam caved in: "Ten million. Okay. I can handle that. It won't be easy, but I think -- "

"Think? You've never thought in your life, Sam. Connived, schemed, and plotted? Sure. But thinking? Uh-uh, no."

"All I'm saying is that it will take time."

"That it will. Five minutes to be precise. I'm logging on to my Swiss bank then. If my account is ten million dollars plumper than it was yesterday, I'll answer the phone when you call back. If not ... " Charlie regretted Sam couldn't see his fine and wolfish smirk ". . . then not. Bye now, Sam."

"No! Wait! I don't have your account number!"

"Oh, spare me! My personnel file is on your desk, and my account number is right there on the first page."

"Err ... why, so it is, but -- "

The phone chirped merrily, a happy little songbird soon to be fed.

Charlie polished off his coffee, set his partially read newspaper on a wicker table, and ambled back into the house. The porch led directly to his den. His Apple PowerBook computer was already alive, alert, and scanning the Internet for such dubious data as people like Charlie always found beguiling.

He pecked out his Swiss bank's computer address, entered his password, and was just in time to watch his account grow from the token thousand dollars he kept in it to ten million, one thousand dollars and no (0) cents.

Charlie reached beneath his desk and threw a toggle switch. The computer screen flickered. His modem was no longer connected to the ultrahigh- bandwidth line the Agency had kindly let him keep after dispensing with his services. Charlie was now dialing into the World Wide Web via an ordinary telephone line.

Well, not entirely ordinary .... Whirlwind
A Novel
. Copyright © by Joseph Garber. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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