Set in the 1980s, during the final years of the cold war with the Soviet Union, George Taylor, a medical researcher turned college professor, finds himself drawn into the adventure of his life. An inexplicably downed Russian plane containing nuclear devices and corpses, Russian military personnel dying in droves and a cover-up manipulated by Russian officers intent on retaining control at any cost, turn this novel into a page-turner in the style of Dan Brown.
George and Landon, both medical researchers, are recruited by Steffon, a government agent, and asked to investigate what happened on the Russian plane. With that investigation completed in secrecy, George next accepts an assignment to investigate a possibly related issue in the Ukraine, where he meets the beautiful Dr. Maria Vargas.
Without intending it, George has become a spy, although his medical fame for studies in treating cancer places him, at least temporarily, above suspicion. Tension builds as more mysterious deaths occur in an environment where General Salcovich enjoys total control over the lives of too many.
The most impressive aspect of this novel is its authenticity. Ramirez includes details that make each scene come to life. The author’s research and probably his personal experience shine through the book. As his protagonist’s knowledge becomes more and more dangerous to the Soviets, the tension ramps up. The author also gives us a real sense of the main characters, in particular George and Maria. By the end of the novel, I was cheering them on. In my view, all of these things make the last 2/3 of the novel terrific.
However, I’ve given the book less than five stars because the beginning chapters read like government documents. There is so much ponderous telling exposition that it weighs the story down. This tendency continues in the book, but it’s eventually balanced by action and engaging dialogue. The author attempts to draw us in with a prologue that’s a scene from the end of the book, a scene that only makes sense if you know the context. This hint at more exciting events isn’t enough. I really wanted to join his characters from the beginning.
I can certainly recommend this book as a thriller, but be prepared to wade through the early chapters. I’m looking forward to this author’s next novel. He’s a good storyteller.