PrintE-mail Written by Ian White

Red Rover is the blackest of black-op security teams, and its leader, Greg Whitman, will stop at nothing to get the dirty work done. When their latest mission goes bad, his armourer is killed and his compadre Felix is badly wounded, Whitman returns to the United States focused on revenge. Despite his boss’ reservations, he turns to an old associate called Charlie Daou to fill the unexpected vacancy in his team (we would say more about Charlie, but that would spoil the surprise) and Charlie comes complete with a grudge and some pretty unorthodox weaponry. But what Whitman doesn’t realise is that every move he makes has already been anticipated and countered by a nightmare from his past, a bayou sorcerer named Preach who is working with a ruthless Illuminati-like cabal called The Alchemists on an experiment to create an army of zombified super warriors. The Alchemists are everywhere, and NSA chief Luther St Vincent is one of their best operatives. He also has a score to settle with Whitman. When Whitman, Charlie and the newly-recovered Felix decide to go rogue, none of them are aware that Felix has been used as an unwitting guinea-pig for Mobius, the ‘weaponised warrior’ program, nor that the experimental drug coursing through Felix’s veins has some extremely nasty side-effects. And, worse than that, The Alchemists are about to resurrect a subterranean torture facility called the Well, using Felix’s runaway niece Lucy as one of their new ‘death dealers’. Whitman knows the Well intimately – in a past life he would rather forget, he was The Alchemist’s leading torturer and interrogator. Whitman, Preach and The Alchemists are headed for a showdown – black ops versus Preach’s black arts – that none of them may survive.

Any Minute Now is a little bit of a disappointment. Eric Van Lustbader, a prolific author who is probably best known for his Nicholas Linnear novels as well as for marshalling Robert Ludlum’s hero Jason Bourne into the 21st century, writes with his usual pace, crackle and gritty authenticity, and the combination of military thriller with a touch of supernatural horror is an appealing mix. The occasional mention of IS and a hefty nod towards real world events also lends the story a nasty sense of ‘could this really happen?’. But here’s the problem: there are too many incidental characters (although, to Lustbader’s credit, they’re all very neatly sketched in – we’re never in any doubt as to who’s who) and Preach’s intriguing santeria-like juju gets lost among all the evil scientists and twisty-turny conspiracy gobbledegook. There’s also a mid-story encounter between a sexually frustrated woman and a charismatic pole dancer that made us want to shout “Van Lustbader, put down the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and back off the keyboard!” More than that, the Red Rover scenes – and Whitman’s entire character arc – are disappointingly predictable, and the last half of the novel – entertaining though it is – does have the sense that the author was simply ticking off plot points until the end, and the end feels like the last scene in a really uninspired TV actioner complete with a final line of joint dialogue that is solid cheese.

If Van Lustbader intends this to be a series, he’s badly in need of some magic.


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