Monday, July 2, 2012

Hammock Reading: The Last Refuge by Ben Coes

Do you have a favorite spot for summer reading? I like sprawling in a hammock or bracing my back against a big pine tree. Give me some shade and an icy drink, and then all I need is the right book.

Warm summer nights call for action movies; sweltering afternoons for action thrillers. There's nothing so relaxing as lolling about while a book's characters vie to doom or save the world. Real flies need to amscray, but people need to drop like 'em on the page. And if the plot unfolds in a place where folks are sweating buckets, well, all the better. My hammock feels arctic in comparison.

You just KNOW Ben Coes writes thrillers
Recently, I visited some Iranian bad guys in the company of a good-guy hunk named Dewey Andreas, former U. S. Army Ranger and Delta officer, courtesy of thriller writer Ben Coes. Coes has an interesting history. He was a speechwriter for the George H. W. Bush White House, a fellow at Harvard's JFK School of Government, and the campaign manager when Mitt Romney ran for Massachusetts governor in 2002. Coes is currently a partner in a private equity firm and a Barry Award for Best Thriller-nominated writer for Coup d'Etat, the second Dewey Andreas book. (The first is Power Down.) I read the third, The Last Refuge.

I had no sooner become fond of U.S. President Rob Allaire when he suffers a stroke and dies. He refused to participate in a summit meeting with Iranian President Nava, but Allaire's successor isn't ruling it out. The CIA's director and Jessica Tanzer, the national security advisor, feel a headache coming on. Jessica's lover, Dewey Andreas, is at rather loose ends. He's no longer in the service and is looking for a private sector job. Israeli Special Forces commander Kohl Meir has also asked Dewey to meet with him, while Meir is in the United States. He hopes to recruit Dewey for a top-secret mission involving an Iranian nuclear bomb.

Plans for Dewey and Meir's get together are interrupted when Iranian agents capture Meir, the grandson of Golda Meir, and smuggle him to Iran. There, he is held in prison and tortured in preparation for a show trial. Dewey owes his life to Meir and his Israeli commando team and feels obligated to rescue him. It appears impossible: help can't be recruited from the American or Israeli government because the Iranians can't be alerted. Time is running out. Then there's the matter of that Iranian nuclear bomb.

Dewey's mission against all odds is recounted in smooth style by author Coes, who knows how things get done above and below board in government. Given the Iranian nuclear program and the sanctions squeezing that country, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that this book has a timely subject. It was interesting to read a thriller involving two heroes, one American and one Israeli, written by Mitt Romney's former gubernatorial campaign manager. The book's Iranians aren't all bad; a few are good guys, and Coes states that the Iranian people are likable and admirable. Some of their leaders are definitely no candidates for Mr. Congeniality: Abu Paria, the head of VEVAK (the Iranian secret service), is spectacularly nasty, and President Nava is a liar. The torturing of Meir is strenuous for him and the reader.

The Last Refuge doesn't attempt to be literature. It doesn't make you contemplate your navel or marvel at a writer who rides words bareback. It doesn't have an overly serpentine plot or characters whose thoughts are examined under an extraordinarily sophisticated microscope. Nope. It's action, baby. Straightforward action spiced with underhanded dealings, written by a very smart guy, whose women are accomplished and beautiful and whose men are men, whether they're incredibly brave heroes or relentlessly cruel villains. You'll forget you're sweating in the heat because you're watching the characters sweat bullets.

This book is an action pleasure, but it's not a mindless guilty pleasure. The writing doesn't insult you. You don't need to hide the cover under a brown-paper wrapper or laugh in embarrassment if your friend picks it up. I'd like to see what Dewey was up to before, and I'll be curious to see what Dewey gets up to next. I hear that Coes is working on another one. I'm making a date with Book 4 in the Dewey Andreas series and the hammock for next summer.

P.S. The Last Refuge is now available in various formats: hardcover, audible, audiobook, and Kindle. Here's a sample clip from Macmillan Audio:

Note: I received a free advance reading copy from Macmillan. We'll be featuring an interview with author Ben Coes soon and giving away a copy of this book to one of our readers.

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