Series: Marcus Ryker #2
Published by Tyndale on March 12, 2019
Genres: Christian, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Kremlin Conspiracy comes this latest international thriller about a terrifying nuclear alliance among three world powers--Russia, Iran, and North Korea--and the man who must halt their deadly strategy.
Shot out of the air in enemy territory in the middle of the greatest international crisis since the end of the Cold War, former U.S. Secret Service agent Marcus Ryker finds himself facing an impossible task. Not only does he have to somehow elude detection and capture by Russian special forces, but he must convince his own government to grant safe harbor to the one man responsible for the global mayhem--Russian double agent and assassin Oleg Kraskin. While frantically negotiating with his contacts in the White House, Marcus learns that the unstable North Korean regime plans to use the international chaos as a smokescreen to sell nuclear weapons to Iran. With the fate of the entire free world on the line, Marcus makes a deal with the U.S. government--he will go back to work as an international operative and track down the WMDs before they end up in the hands of those with the determination and the means to use them. Marcus and Oleg worked together once before to avert a world war. Can they now find a way to stop world destruction?
The Persian Gamble by Joel Rosenberg
The Persian Gamble begins like The Kremlin Conspiracy began: With Marcus Ryker and Oleg Kraskin a few thousand feet in the air, an exploding plane above them and a forest rushing in below. There’s no way to tell this story without offering spoilers for the first novel in the series.
The Russian president is dead. And Kraskin, the president’s son-in-law, pulled the trigger. Ryker’s the one that walked him through how to pull off the assassination. Now they’re trying to escape Russia. And they also have to convince the United States government that disobeying orders and assassinating a president was really for the best.
Rosenberg has long been known for his eerily prophetic novels. These novels have gotten even more prescient as Rosenberg’s fame has garnered him access to top military officials. I thoroughly enjoyed The Kremlin Conspiracy—particular the Kraskin’s development as a character—and was excited to see where the story would go from here.
While Kraskin’s assassination of his father-in-law temporarily averted war, Russia is thrown into chaos and is looking for someone to blame. Meanwhile, North Korea—who had a secret nuclear arms deal with Russia—attempts to secure a nuclear warhead and now wants to operate without Russian oversight. Iran also gets involved, as they learn of the nuclear tech and want a piece of it as well.
For being named The Persian Gamble, the novel spends an inordinate amount of time in Russia and North Korea. By the end, Iran is set up as the ultimate Big Bad (Rosenberg, like the US government, seems to overlook Saudi Arabia for some reason) for what I assume will be the third and final installment.
The pacing is quick. The characters are great. The storyline is compelling, though not as believable as some of Rosenberg’s other work. For what it’s worth, I would have preferred for the main plot of this book to have centered on North Korea and only introduced Iran in the third book. Rushing through this to get to Iran keeps the story from developing as well as it could have.
Rosenberg also struggles to write religious elements that seem genuine and sincere. At first, I thought it was just his portrayal of Islam—I’ve liked every book he’s written except for his 13th Imam series—but I found here that scenes directly concerning Christianity or Islam read like caricatures of religious figures.
Despite these flaws, The Persian Gamble is a page-turning thriller that kept me hooked. I’m a bit concerned about where it’s going—I don’t want Rosenberg to fumble in the home stretch—but I’m in it until the end.