W. Craig Reed’s Status-6: An NCIS Special Ops Thriller (Permuted Press) sees grief-stricken NCIS Special Ops agent Jon Shay sent to the far corners of the earth to investigate the suicide of Petty Officer Paul Kelly. Never mind that in his own corner of the earth he’s struggling with suicidal thoughts himself after the death of his wife, an event deeply complicated in his mind and wrapped in the barbed wire of regret. What is his life supposed to be without her? Maybe, at least, it can be an opportunity to serve his country. There’s not much else keeping him warm when he reports to Alaska, where submarines slink beneath the frigid arctic waters on highly classified missions.
Once there, Jon meets the smart-as-a-whip scientist Kate Barrett, who has a few tricks up her capable sleeves. Kate has some ghosts too (after an affair with a professor who turned out to be married) but, like Jon, is thrust into the immediate present when suddenly they’re attacked by Chinese soldiers. A conniving man named Hai Liang is also primed to meet Kate, and his motives are more nefarious than Jon’s … it turns out that Kate is privy to some top-secret technology that the enemy would kill, very literally, to get their hands on. Also, let’s just say that Kate’s hydrophobia does her no favors when her captors make her and Jon dive under the ice to one of the submarines. And that’s only the beginning of their torments.
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES
There are lots of tricks of the trade to dive into with this book, especially submarine lingo, that will prove fascinating for fans of military thriller or fiction genres. Secret technology, Chinese terrorists, AI transformations, Russian submarines all factor into the intrigue. Apparently, the stakes are only … the future of all mankind. Whatever, right?
The number of times death is just a hair’s breadth away is astonishing and keeps readers’ eyes glued to the page, just like previous books in the series (though you don’t need to have read any earlier iterations to fully enjoy this one). When you’re poised right alongside the Secretary of Defense, hearing an agent relay that “We just received an OPREP 3 from the USS Connecticut operating in the Beaufort Sea. It appears a Navy ICEX camp was attacked by a team of Chinese soldiers,” you know you’re in the middle of some serious trouble.
AN INVESTMENT UNTIL THE VERY END
At one point in the novel the minutes tick away before certain death, three minutes to go, then two minutes … are you nervous yet? Eventually, even if this one part of the battle is won, the bad guys are planning to release the Status-6 torpedo on an innocent population. Naturally, the White House is involved when the fate of the nation is in the wrong hands; it’s all hands on deck. You’d better not get too invested because there’s no guarantee that your favorite characters will come out alive. Then again, it’s extremely hard not to get invested in this mesmerizing thriller.
Notably, even in the midst of utter demolition, Jon’s thoughts often veer toward his grief. The memories and PTSD are harrowing, and the author treats them with the gravity they deserve. If, by some strange miracle, Jon lives to tell another tale, will he survive the constant plague of his personal ghosts? Well, don’t think you’ll get every single answer, because a few ends are purposely left loose so that our prolific author has the opportunity to pen yet another winner. To quote the book, “this obviously goes much deeper than I thought.”
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