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31 December 2013

Clancy Tom & Mark Greaney: Command Authority

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 A fitting farewell to the Jack Ryan saga
This is the last Jack Ryan novel signed off by Tom Clancy before his untimely death in October 2013. I say signed off because it is clear that for many years Clancy had relied on a stable of co-authors to write most of his books - and Mark Greaney is the best of them all and should be given most of the credit for this book. "Command Authority" takes us back to the classic days of "Clancy's" writing style and plots for politico/espionage/covert ops thrillers based loosely on actual and imaginary relations between the US and the rest of the world.

Jack Ryan, Senior, is President again and his son, Jack, Junior, is working as an analyst with The Campus, small off-record self-financing covert operations group set up with Ryan, Sr's. blessing. While Jack is at heart an analyst he is being trained as a covert operator by Ryan's old chums, including John Clark and Domingo Chavez.

In a thinly disguised critique of modern Russia under former KGB Lieutenant Colonel and now Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Greaney introduces us to Valeri Volodin, a dominating and aggressive Russian President who had also served with the KGB. Volodin become wealthy during the breakup of the Soviet Union before gaining political power. After a carefully contrived assassination of the former head of internal security which he blames on the West, he combines the internal and external security services under Roman Talanov, an unknown but ruthless person with links back to the KGB and to one of the most powerful gangs in the Russian Mafia.

This time Jack Ryan Senior gets involved again with the Russians when and old Russian adversary, now a friend falls ill in the White House with a fatal dose of radioactive Polonium. All things point to the Russian Secret Service being involved.

Jack Ryan Senior also gets involved in thwarting, with the help of NATO, a Russian attack on Estonia. After this Volodin steps up his plans to invade and absorb Ukraine into Russia and tasks Talanov to get Gleb the Scar, chief operative of the Seven Strong Men criminal organization, to organise internal resistance. The Campus tracks down and keeps an eye on Gleb who has taken over a heavily guarded hotel in central Kiev.

Meanwhile Jack Junior is in London working as a financial analyst and is tasked to find how the State owned Gazprom was able to virtually steal several billion dollars of pipeline and oil fields in Russia from a Scottish billionaire. Jack follows the money trail and finds that the money was laundered through a numbered Swiss bank account which has links to the former KGB. He also finds that over a billion dollars has been syphoned into a personal account, but Swiss laws prevent him from getting any information about the account.

In the background, and rapidly moving to the foreground, the focus turns to Jack Senior's work when seconded to MI6 in the 1980's hunting down Zenith, a Russian assassin code-named Zenith. The story switches between the past and the present as the significance of Zenith's identity and activity in the present becomes known.

From this you will see that Greaney has built up a complex and interconnected plot, with lots of espionage, and military and covert action. He has crafted one of the best contemporary Jack Ryan adrenaline-packed page-turning adventures for some time. After "Executive Action" I kept away from Clancy's work because it was running out of steam, both in plots and the writing. I didn't enjoy the first Greaney collaboration with "Locked On", but enjoyed "Threat Vector" (another Greaney collaboration) and really enjoyed "Executive Action". This is a fitting finale for the Jack Ryan series. Thank you Tom and your helpers for creating the genre of techno/espionage/politico/covert ops thrillers that have spawned so many other similar series.

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