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Game of Snipers: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel

Review

Game of Snipers: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel

Who would have thought that Stephen Hunter would write one of his best novels at this point in his career, let alone well into the second decade of the 21st century? The newly published GAME OF SNIPERS is just that. It is all the more remarkable given that it is Hunter’s 26th novel overall and the 11th to feature the venerable Bob Lee Swagger, who by amazing coincidence shares a number of important qualities with his creator: being active at an advanced age, precise knowledge of the subject matter (firearms, to be exact), and excellence of execution. These three elements and others come together beautifully and memorably in GAME OF SNIPERS.

The book begins perfectly, ends wonderfully and is top-notch at all points in between. The first chapter consists of an enigmatic vignette that will haunt each and every reader up until the narrative catches up with it about midway through. In the meantime, Bob Lee “The Nailer” Swagger makes his initial appearance on the front porch of his ranch, recuperating (to the extent that a septuagenarian can) from the injuries visited upon him during the course of G-MAN, which immediately preceded GAME OF SNIPERS.

"The book begins perfectly, ends wonderfully and is top-notch at all points in between.... The result is a story loaded with twists and turns..."

Swagger’s solitude is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Janet McDowell, who he wants nothing to do with until he hears her story. She is the mother of Lance Corporal Thomas McDowell, a Marine sniper who himself was killed by a sniper in Baghdad in 2003. Janet has made it her life’s mission to figure out who the culprit is and visit vengeance upon him. She has fulfilled part of that, insofar as she has identified him to be a legendary figure known as Juba the Sniper, and matter-of-factly describes what she has endured in identifying him. Ultimately, it’s not that Swagger can’t say no to the woman. He must say yes, given that she is a sibling in arms, if you will, even if she has never served a day in the military.

Swagger may be out of the game, but he still owns the board, and thus begins calling in favors. He learns that Israel is very, very interested in Juba as well, due to a particular atrocity that he visited upon a busload of Israeli schoolkids. The Israelis, though, wish to take Juba alive in order to have a series of conversations with him concerning who hired him. What results is a thrilling mystery, full of false leads, cat-and-mouse chases, forensics, and deep background into the world of snipers, firearms and the rough men who stand ready in the night to do violence upon those who would harm us.

As an added kick, Swagger and his friends soon learn that Juba isn’t just hanging out twiddling his thumbs. He has been recruited for a major hit on an extremely hot target. The result is a story loaded with twists and turns, so many that I was convinced at times that the book would write finis to the Bob Lee Swagger series. And maybe it does. If so, it goes out on the highest note possible.

GAME OF SNIPERS is superb, but I’ve already told you that several times. You don’t have to have read a single volume of the series to thoroughly enjoy it and the laconic, effective Swagger, but you will want to do so after reading just the first few pages. You will, in fact, want to read every word that Hunter has ever written. Don’t wait.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 9, 2019

Game of Snipers: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel
by Stephen Hunter

  • Publication Date: July 30, 2019
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0399574573
  • ISBN-13: 9780399574573