“The Last Refuge” Ben Coes (St Martins Press) – novel review

The Last Refuge by Ben Coes book coverDewey Andreas, former SEAL and Delta Force, learns that an Israeli who had saved his life in a previous mission, was captured in New York but Iranian Secret Service ops. When Dewey discovers the Israeli was actually in New York to pass on proof of an Iranian nuclear bomb, he determines to both rescue the Israeli from the high security prison he’s held in and prevent Iran deploying their bomb on Israel – the planned target is Tel Aviv. Due to politics, Dewey has limited, unofficial support from the CIA and cannot involve Israel. To complicate matters, he’s caught the attention of the Iranian Secret Service.

It takes a skilled writer to weave these threads together without boring or losing the reader and Ben Coes pulls it off without info dumping and by keeping the plot plausible. He focuses on the characters involved, drawing each memorably, so the plot is credibly fleshed out and peopled with recognisable human beings. Ben Coes also pulls in extensive experience as speech writer and campaign manager so handles the political dimension as well as the action and suspense, making “The Last Refuge” more intelligent that a straightforward action thriller.

Another aspect Ben Coes proves better than average at are his female characters. They vary from strong, ex-CIA action junkies to feminine student and all are individuals. Moreover they all contribute to the plot rather than being tacked on as an afterthought or as cheerleaders for the all-action hero.

His chief character, Dewey Andreas, isn’t a know-it-all maverick. He knows his weaknesses and is shown remembering and putting his training into practice. He’s not afraid to consult experts or own up to what he doesn’t know. As audacious as his plans seems, Dewey knows what he needs to make it work. Unfortunately, his main opponent, Abu Paria, the brutal head of the Iranian Secret Service is a good match for Dewey’s cunning, skill and tenaciousness. Where they differ is that Dewey sees his empathy as a strength, Paria sees it as a weakness. That difference determines who wins.

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