Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Last Refuge: A Dewey Andreas Novel by Ben Coes

The blurb:

In The Last Refuge, Dewey Andreas must face his bigger challenge and most fearsome opponent yet.

Off a quiet street in Brooklyn, New York, Israeli Special Forces commander Kohl Meir is captured by operatives of the Iranian secret service, who smuggle Meir back to Iran where he's imprisoned, tortured, and prepared for a show trial.

What they don't know is that Meir was in New York to recruit Dewey Andreas for a secret operation.  Meir had been tipped off that Iran had developed a nuclear bomb and was planning to use it to attack Israel.  His proof was a photo of the bomb with the words, "Goodbye Tel Aviv" written in Farsi.

Dewey Andreas, a former SEAL and Delta, owes his life to Meir and his team of Israeli commandos.  Now to repay his debt, Dewey has to attempt the impossible -- to both rescue Meir from one of the world's most secure prisons before he's executed and to find and eliminate Iran's nuclear bomb before it's deployed.  All without the help or sanction of Israel or America (or risk near certain detection by Iran before the plan is in place).

Unfortunately, Dewey's first moves have caught the attention of Abu Paria, the brutal and brilliant head of VEVAK, the Iranian secret service.  Now Dewey has to face off against, outwit and outfight, an opponent with equal cunning, skill and determination with the destruction of Israel's largest city hanging in the balance.

I hadn't read any of Ben Coes' earlier novels before diving into The Last Refuge.  I've reading more thrillers in the last few weeks and The Last Refuge sounded action packed what with Andreas having to rescue Meir, the Israeli commando from a secure prison and to find and acquire a nuclear bomb.

I gravitate towards actions series with flawed lead characters, so I quickly grew to like Dewey Andreas.  We learn early on that the political regime in Iran is corrupt and unreliable and that the White House is attempting a political solution to halt Iran's nuclear research.  When Kohl Meir is kidnapped from US soil, the story is very black and white.  While the US is unable to take official action and unwilling to interfere, we know that Dewey Andreas is equally unable to walk away.

Andreas must find a way to track down Meir with his limited resources - he is an unemployed private citizen with a mission that most governments would balk to undertake.  Coes makes clear that Andreas' operates on a code of honor and it's a code that the politicians can't afford to follow.  Though it is clear where Coes' sympathy lies, when Andreas contacts the Israeli government and Meir's family, I immediately root for Andreas and the Israelis.  The Iranians in The Last Refuge are largely two dimensional villains and this is the story's weakness.  The Iranian secret police, politicians, nuclear scientists are wholly unsympathetic with the exception of one man who tries to prevent the attack. This brave man speaks out for the terrorized citizens who are against the extremism that rules Iran.  With that caveat, it was easy for me to overlook the flatness of the Iranian villains in The Last Refuge because of the strength of the leading character Dewey Andreas.  Andreas is larger than life and an unstoppable killing machine but he operates with a distinct moral code and deep loyalties.  Though he's quite different from Lee Child's Jack Reacher, Ben Coes' Dewey Andreas reminded me a bit of Jack Reacher with his incredible reflexes and abilities and his willingness to dive into danger for what he believes in.  If you enjoy an action packed thriller, I recommend giving Ben Coes' The Last Refuge

ISBN-10: 1250007151 - Hardcover $25
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 3, 2012), 416 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Ben Coes is the author of the acclaimed novels Power Down and Coup d'Etat.  A former speechwriter for the George H.W. Bush White House, he was a fellow at the JFK School of Government at Harvard, the campaign manager for Mitt Romney's successful run for governor in 2002, and is currently a partner in a private equity firm.  He lives in Wellsley, Massachusetts.

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