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Operator Down by Brad Taylor

Published by Dutton on January 9, 2018

I think this series took a wrong turn when Brad Taylor introduced Shoshana, the “supernatural predator” who kills by instinct but has a childlike view of the world. She isn’t a credible character but, even worse, she’s become little more than a caricature. She’s supposed to be the female version of Pike Logan (he was Soshana before the love of a good woman civilized him) but even without Jennifer’s civilizing influence, Pike would be capable of subtlety, nuance, and a reasonable degree of self-control, while Soshana is a one-note character who seems desperately in need of anti-psychotic medication to contain her mindless rage. Her self-perception as a “monster that shouldn’t walk the earth” has been overplayed. Unfortunately, the series has continually gravitated toward Aaron (a former Mossad agent) and his partner Shoshana, when it was sailing along just fine with the Taskforce characters at center stage. Alas.

My Shoshana rant notwithstanding, the story delivers the action and tension that is typical of a Brad Taylor novel. Mossad has hired Aaron to track the employee of a diamond broker in Soweto to learn whether he is doing anything that might embarrass Israel. Aaron stumbles onto something bigger (although he has no idea what) and gets captured. The thugs who capture him fear that he has communicated with Shoshana, so they travel to Israel to take her out. By happy coincidence, Pike Logan has been tasked with following a shady arms merchant who also happens to be a diamond merchant. Pike follows the dealer to Israel, accompanied by Jennifer and Blood, encounters Shoshana, then makes his way to South Africa while trying to understand how his mission has intersected with Aaron’s disappearance. Somewhere along the way, Knuckles adds his presence to the team, after being assigned to make goo-goo eyes at the new Secretary of State so that she'll support whatever actions the Taskforce wants to take.

The frequent stare-down confrontations between Pike and the impetuous Shoshana become tedious, but other aspects of the story are worthwhile, nothwithstanding the silliness of Knuckles' seductive glances at a cabinet official. Despite its length, Operator Down isn’t as meaty as some other entries in the series, but I always appreciate Taylor’s efforts to avoid standard terrorist villains in standard terrorist locations. Most of this story takes place in South Africa, and a detour (which soon becomes the main plot) involves a coup in Lesotho and Pike’s decision to take sides. Taylor’s formula has Pike doing things he’s not supposed to do (as opposed to taking illegal actions that the Taskforce sanctions), and the formula works well here. There’s a bit of character development involving Pike and Jennifer (she wants him to commit, he’s a guy) but the story is mostly about action, and the action is solid.


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