“Without Warning” by Joel C. Rosenberg

Tyndale House

448 pages

$26.99

The first 53 pages of this novel will scare the bejabbers out of any reader. It is a safe bet that readers will not have seen the ending in a book of this genre. It should be required reading for all voters and all politicians at local, state and national levels. For those reasons it would be a gross spoiler to reveal anything about the beginning and end.

Rosenberg’s protagonist is J.B. Collins, a balding, 40-something reporter for The New York Times whose assignment is national security correspondent, which includes terrorism and counterterrorism.

The villain of this work is one Abu Khalif, emir of the Islamic State. He has two doctorates, is fluent in seven languages, and is a master orator and manipulator of the media. He is not merely a terrorist. He is the head of a genocidal death cult.

In the past, Collins had done an interview with Khalif. He was, therefore, the only Westerner who can identify the emir.

Police in Birmingham, Ala., had found and broken up an ISIS cell. President Harrison Beresford Taylor (aside: it may be revealing that Rosenberg has chosen the names of two presidents who almost always make the top 10 as the worst presidents in American history) knew this before the State of the Union address, but had chosen to assure all in attendance, and the country, that the U.S. has ISIS on the run.

Collins and his older brother Matt drive from New York City to Maine to visit their mother. A mile from their mom’s house, they see smoke in the air. Their mother’s house is engulfed in flames. Officials at the scene tell them their mom is dead, along with Matt’s son. Matt’s wife and daughter are alive but severely wounded.

The CIA wants to put them in the witness protection program. But Collins gets a sealed letter from Robert Khachician, the former head of the CIA who was murdered. In the letter is a dark condemnation of President Taylor, some equally dark comments about ISIS, and a warning that whoever had killed him would come after Collins, his mom and Matt and his family.

Sadly, the letter was too late. But it makes the CIA’s case for witness protection very strong. Khichician’s letter is worth the price of the book, and is a big part of the scary nature of the book. As an aside, the murdered former head of the CIA had left Collins and Matt a very large amount of money, $15 million each, which they may use any way they like, but is plainly for the hunt for Khalif.

They are flown to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, in the witness protection program. Disgusted with the soaring rhetoric and complete inactivity of the president to hunt down and stop (i.e., kill) Khalif, Collins, after much painful soul searching, decides he will go to Israel and offer his services in the hunt, since he is the only person who has seen Khalif close up and can identify him.

Collins flies to Israel. The Israelis are glad to see him. They are hunting Khalif. Complicating his joining the Mossad is Yael Katzir, a beautiful Mossad agent with whom Collins feels he is in love. Approaching the end, Yael tells Collins she in engaged. This may have and may not have impacted Collin’s decision on the only way to be sure the terrorist is no longer a threat to the United States.

It is likely that no reader will ever forget this one.

Malcolm Nelson is a former systems analyst and a retired teacher. Email him at scribbler9@windstream.net.