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It is probably too late, but I've decided that when I grow up I
want to be Ted Bell. You can tell from the opening page of any of
his Alex Hawke thrillers --- be it HAWKE, ASSASSIN, or the newly
published PIRATE --- that the guy is a marvelous, unique talent: he
has a canny understanding of how apparently disparate events and
facts are connected, and a unique way of providing explanations for
them --- so much so that his novels, taken collectively, could be
subtitled "How The World Works." He is also married to a woman who,
while not a household name, is possessed of one of the most
brilliant minds on the planet. Lest you need any further
endorsement, keep in mind that "10s" don't marry "2s." Bell's most
significant literary asset, however, is that he understands people,
so that while his excellent novels are plot-driven, there is always
a set of living, responsive hands firmly at the wheel.

PIRATE is the third and best of the Hawke novels, an already
brilliant series of derring-do and contemporary swashbuckling that
contain more action and interesting characters than most books do
in three. Hawke is brilliant, wealthy and talented; notwithstanding
all of that, he is quite believable, even as he executes every task
flawlessly, from (almost) single-handedly rescuing a hostage who
possesses knowledge that threatens the free world, to carrying off
a seemingly impossible escape from a technological grave with the
coolheadedness and collectiveness of a Harry Houdini.

The secondary characters are a delight here, ranging from Stokely
Jones, who is guaranteed to save Hawke's bacon at least once per
novel, to Hu Xu, who may well be one of the most unique villains
introduced in recent fiction. Indeed, Xu, a cross-dressing assassin
and expert interrogator, is guaranteed to creep out a reader from
first appearance to last, as much for what he does as how he does
it. His ingeniousness and depravity put me in the mind of Fu
Manchu, a brilliant pulp villain from the early 20th century; as
bad as the guy is, you can't wait for his next appearance, as he
plots to...

Well, yes, there is a plot to all of this, and a great and timely
one it is! Luca Bonaparte, the ruthless descendant of Napoleon,
plans to seize control of the reins of the government of France in
a daring, de facto coup d'etat. His aim is to restore France
to its 19th century status as a major world power. Bonaparte forms
an unholy alliance with China to achieve this goal. China, with its
nuclear arsenal, and France, through the use of an otherwise
benevolent alliance, plot to occupy and control a sovereign,
oil-rich Middle Eastern nation in order to utilize its most
abundant natural resource for its own purpose. Hawke is brought in
to provide clandestine support to the CIA in an attempt by the U.S.
to thwart this alliance of convenience and the deadly nuclear
confrontation it represents.

It isn't entirely all Hawke's show, however. Stokely Jones is
heavily involved as well, as he squires a beautiful, enigmatic
Chinese actress across Germany while attempting to unlock the
secrets of a wealthy German industrialist, hidden away in a
mysterious and magnificent fortress near the Untersburg and
Waltzmann mountains. Bell, never without his masterful touch,
switches back and forth among various and precarious events,
keeping the reader consistently off-balance and constantly
entertained, from the first page to its thrilling, countdown

Bell easily could be considered the rightful heir to the throne of
Robert Ludlum, but he is too talented to assume the chair of
another; he brings his own to the table with unique and
considerable talent. PIRATE and its predecessors are unbeatable.
Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 18, 2011

by Ted Bell

  • Publication Date: June 27, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • ISBN-10: 1416510796
  • ISBN-13: 9781416510796