Military thrillers ought to have intriguing titles. November 400CP Is Missing (Lyrical Underground) certainly qualifies, and it gets better from there as author Anderson Harp takes us on an action-packed journey from freezing Alaska to the remotest islands of tropical Sumatra.
The title refers to “N400CP,” the identifying tail number of a Gulfstream jet owned by PT Chevron Pacific that mysteriously disappears after taking off from the international airport in Kuala Lumpur. The passengers are members of an exploration team excited about the discovery of a gigantic oil reserve, the biggest in Indonesian history. But the jet dropped from the sky in the same general region in which the real-world Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mysteriously disappeared in 2014. Indeed, one of the subplots raises questions about that never-solved mystery.
The novel is Harp’s sixth adventure featuring Will Parker, a decorated Marine lieutenant colonel and one-time district attorney in a small Georgia town. In the opening scenes of November 400CP Is Missing, we find Parker living in relative anonymity in a remote section of Alaska. Parker deploys his seasoned military skills to rescue stranded hikers and injured climbers who sometimes don’t know what they’re getting into when they tempt nature and fate on Alaskan peaks.
CAPTIVATING PLOT KEEPS READERS TURNING PAGES
Well, remember that great line by Al Pacino playing Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part 3? Michael says, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” It’s a classic fictional trope, and it aptly describes what happens to Parker after N400CP vanishes. The wife of a former Marine buddy makes contact. Her husband is one of those who disappeared, and she’s not getting much help from the FBI or the CIA.
Parker can’t say “no” to help a brother, so he assembles what amounts to a rogue team that heads to Indonesia where, as you might expect, he meets a beautiful, resourceful and intriguing woman. She’s Retno Karim, an Indonesian government operative who speaks multiple languages and is a native of the Banda Aceh region that might be home to a reawakened terrorist group.
From that point, it’s a page-turning pursuit story that moves between three vantage points: Parker and his team, the terrorists, and the imprisoned crash survivors who await a near-certain death likely to be televised around the world unless they escape.
The story climaxes with a dangerous tropical river journey. Such settings always evoke Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or its cinematic variant, Apocalypse Now, for me. Harp flips that narrative, because this time it’s the terrorists, not the good guys, navigating the river. They’ll wreak havoc along the way as Parker and his team try desperately to stop them before they escalate their attacks.
TRANSPORTIVE, ENLIGHTENING AND AUTHENTIC
Thrillers can take us to exotic places that most of us have never seen and probably never will. November 400CP Is Missing delivers, and you’ll get a rich education in the politics, culture and geography of Indonesia, particularly remote parts of Sumatra. You’ll also gain a scary appreciation for how the passionate views of religious terrorists make them different from the rest of us.
Harp offers strong credentials to write about these things. As a Marine, he taught arctic survival and mountaineering and was stationed around the globe, including as officer in charge of the Marine’s Crisis Action Team during the invasion of Afghanistan. And, like Will Parker, he’s also a pilot.
Harp combined his life experiences with a master’s degree in fine arts in literary fiction and has participated in USO authors’ tours to hazardous duty locations around the world with other thriller writers such as Brad Metzler and Michael Connelly. Perhaps as a result of his military upbringing, he has a “radical clarity” writing style that becomes an omniscient voice of explanation, somewhat like the late Tom Clancy. It takes some adjustment, but it works fine.
So, to evoke Michael Corleone, if you haven’t read a military thriller in a while, Will Parker should pull you back in. And you won’t have to deal with cobras or killer crocs in Sumatra to do it.
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