Minutes to Die – Susan Sleeman

Minutes to Die Susan Sleeman
Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman
Also by this author: Seconds to Live, Hours to Kill
Series: Homeland Heroes #2
Published by Bethany House on August 4, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Romance, Suspense
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"Terrorists planning a deadly attack have entered the US, and FBI Agent Kiley Dawson and ICE Agent Evan Bowers are charged with taking them down-except Kiley blames Evan for the death of her former partner. As threats ensue, they reach their breaking point, racing to save countless lives"--

Terrorists targeting the United States?
Millions of lives potentially endangered?
One week to stop the attack?
A sprinkling of romance?

Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman seemed right up my alley. Unfortunately, this book didn’t exceed my expectations. It did not even meet them. The premise was good: We must save the country before it’s too late! I’ve enjoyed what I call “America is the best; go kill the terrorists” novels since I first picked up Vince Flynn and Brad Thor in high school, but leeman’s not anywhere near their skill levels.

I could tell she thoroughly researched before writing Minutes to Die. But when Sleeman dropped FBI acronyms, I almost felt like I was listening to a patronizing professor. It was as if she were trying to impress her readers with her knowledge, and thus she referenced different operating groups. Sleeman could have said the characters sent something to an FBI forensics team. Instead, the author gave the proper title and acronym. I find it unlikely that the characters–all experienced professionals within their respective agencies–would use the proper names. It wouldn’t be necessary. I know Sleeman did it for her readers, but she didn’t need to specify them at all.

National Security < Romance?

Secondly, the two main characters–Evan and Kiley–have a complicated past. Kiley blames Evan for the death of a colleague, because Evan was in charge of the raid in which the individual died. I didn’t find either character relatable, and Evan’s insistence on talking to Kiley about the botched raid rubbed me the wrong way. You’re facing a terrorist threat. In the real world, I’d like to think an FBI and ICE agent could put their emotions–and attractions aside–for a week to focus on what was important. Minutes to Die is a romantic suspense novel, but I found the romance distracting from the ultimate goal: the safety of U.S. citizens.

Compartmentalization is very important in counterterrorism work. If I’m remembering right, as an example, many individuals working on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden did not know their target’s identity. But I don’t know if in a situation where millions of American lives are on the line, only one team would be leading the charge in an operation as Sleeman portrays in Minutes to Die. The book mentions that the RED Team has an arsenal of analysts behind them. Fantastic. But the president might have wanted to know about a terrorist threat that big? He wasn’t mentioned once.

Exciting but Flawed

I read Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman in one day. It kept me on my toes, and I did not want to put it down. So in the categories of “action” and “suspense,” it receives four stars from me. I tired of Sleeman’s writing style in this novel. Multiple characters said or thought “Oh, man,” and it annoyed me. Also, I know this is a Christian novel, but that seemed to be Sleeman’s only “safe” expression of frustration or anger.

Something else that bothered me: Sleeman had too many terrorists with similar names. Most of their names ended with an I. As I read the novel, I mixed up characters, and couldn’t remember who they were. What they had done. Was the one who got shot, or was it Y? Was the one who owned the business, or did A own the P.O. box? I needed a character glossary to which I could refer, because Sleeman lost me.

Without spoiling anything, something else happened in the novel that absolutely would not have happened in real life. Carelessness with something so important would not be acceptable. This knowledge, though, comes from my experience in homeland security, threat assessment, and emergency management. So maybe the general public wouldn’t question it. I, on the other hand, said “Absolutely no way.”

Minutes to Die was a high-stakes novel, one that kept me turning the pages until I reached the end. Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. Maybe with some fine print, and telling my friends to have a notepad handy to write down the names and actions of the bad guys. Seconds to Live was better.