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It is no secret that the writing and publishing machine that is James Patterson often joins forces with other writers. This is the case with COUNTDOWN, which he has written with fellow New York Times bestselling author Brendan DuBois.

At over 450 pages, this lengthy story is set against both paramilitary efforts in the Middle East and a plot against the United States that literally has a tight countdown to be foiled lest thousands of innocent people perish. Our primary protagonist is Agent Amy Cornwall. Her strength is operating from behind enemy lines and completing dangerous tasks that few would even attempt. At the start of the book, she is leading just such an effort with two colleagues in the mountains of northeastern Lebanon.

"Patterson and DuBois are able to keep up the high-octane intensity all the way to the end of the book without providing a moment for readers to catch their breath."

The mission is in conjunction with two British agents who are regrettably taken captive by their enemies. Amy defies orders, keeping her team back in an effort to rescue the duo. She is successful in freeing Jeremy, while his partner, Oliver, has been beheaded. The leader of this terrorist group and the one responsible for the threat against the U.S. is Rashad Hussain. Hussain is not someone to be trifled with, and a mere beheading is far from the most lethal action he is capable of carrying out.

While all of this is going on, the narrative shifts to the ground-zero perspective of Amy’s husband, Tom, and their daughter, Denise. Tom is a journalist operating out of World Trade Center Building One, and he learns of the potential terrorist attack on New York City. His attempts to reach Amy fall through as her own government has “burned” her due to her defiant actions. Amy finds the same roadblock on her end as she cannot even get the local U.S. Consulate to recognize her when she tries to get a message home.

Amy teams up with Jeremy as they travel to London before ending up in NYC in pursuit of Hussain and his terrorist cell connections that are planning the big attack. With mere days to go, they are extremely under the gun to thwart this catastrophic plot. Making matters even more difficult is the fact that they are working outside of their own government agencies, who are in pursuit of them for abandoning their stations in the Middle East.

The final third of COUNTDOWN is a real time-bomb of a reading experience. To say that the situation is tense would be a gross understatement. Patterson and DuBois are able to keep up the high-octane intensity all the way to the end of the book without providing a moment for readers to catch their breath. This is a tribute to Patterson and his masterful ability to plot, and I look forward to his next pairing with DuBois.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on March 25, 2023

by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

  • Publication Date: March 12, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538723980
  • ISBN-13: 9781538723982