Ted Bell hooks readers with ‘Warlord’

As “Warlord” begins, Alex Hawke isn’t in the mood to do anything. Just smoking’, drinkin’ and chillin’ at his cottage in Bermuda.

He is “knee-deep in malaise” and who can blame him? On his last mission, the super counterspy lost the woman he loved, and he feels like he’s to blame for it. As a result, he’s retreated to the friendly confines of Bermuda, the island nation in the Atlantic known more for
hurricanes than terrorist activity.

He’s taken endless walks on beaches, “seeking refuge at the bottom of a rum bottle.” It’s a pretty sober  — pardon the pun — way to begin a novel, yet author Ted Bell has a way of hooking readers and reeling them in.

Because just when you think the story is going nowhere, an intense storm blows in from seemingly nowhere. And Alex Hawke is the man you want when the storm strikes.

That storm is the revelation of a murderous plot against the British royal family. Prince Charles calls Hawke himself and informs him  about the threat. There’s strong reason to believe that the plot is connected to the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, the beloved family patriarch who in 1979 was killed by a bomb planted by the IRA in his boat in Ireland.

Bell develops his story around the real-life death of Mountbatten and the fictional Alex Smith, the Irish mastermind behind the attack who never got arrested. Now, despite the recent peace in the region, Smith wants to finish off the royals in a big way, even if that means teaming up with al-Qaida. Think of it as an aging terrorist who wants to go out in a blaze of glory.

However, Hawke and others are standing in his way. But first, Hawke has to find a way to lock down Pakistan’s nuclear weapon storage
facilities. A new terrorist group, “Sword of Allah,” has stolen a nuke, which is now in the hands of a powerful warlord in the region. Hawke and his team race to the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan to find and secure the nuke. Good luck with that.

Also, the Sword of Allah has conducted attacks in America, including Miami. Terrorists are running loose and creating havoc in the U.S., which puts more pressure on Hawke and his counterterrorism team. On a side note, Hawke seems to have found a new love but does he really want to invest his heart into someone, only to have it torn out again?

“Warlord” is a pulsating thriller that has some spunk and wit. But the storyline is all over the place, which makes the action hard to  follow. For example, it’s 1979 Ireland in one chapter. The next it’s current-day Miami. The next it’s current-day Afghanistan. The next it’s
1992 England. Dramamine, anyone?

Bell is trying to do too much in 500-some pages. I think he would’ve been better off focusing more on the main story, Mountbatten and the royals, and curtailing some of the other terrorist-related stuff, including the Pakistani loose nuke, which seems to be the scary-plot-du-jour among thriller writers nowadays.

But I enjoy Bell’s style, which has an old-school aura of sophistication and intelligence. Hawke is likable too, who has elements of James Bond and Jack Ryan in him. He’s a hero to root for in future stories. Let’s hope he finds (another) true love as well.

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