Warning Order: A Search and Destroy Thriller
A novel by Joshua Hood
Book review by Jules Brenner
Touchstone, released 6/28/16, 352 pp., $25.00
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If you want authenticity in military fiction, a five-year veteran of a parachute infantry regiment offers you that in his second military thriller. My reading of Hood's latest is that he's a writer to whom military tactics is a major component of the world he once lived in and he proves his creds in a page or two. But, what is a "Warning Order" anyway?

For one thing, it's also called, in the capitalized shorthand of military jargon, as WARNO. It pertains to actioning a mission and refers to details warriors need to know (situation, enemy forces, weapons, objective, etc.) so that they're on the same operational page with every other soldier/fighter in the mission.

Hood ("Clear by Fire") gives us three elements: Mason Kane, a blacklisted elite hero with enemies on both sides of the line; Abu al Qatar, a monstrous mass murderer seeking revenge by destroying Kane and America itself for the death of his brother; and a traitorous ring of White House conspirators who sanction black ops to achieve their devious ends. These rats both fear and hate Kane who is in their way.

Mason Kane and his five-man team, pulled from a recon mission in Syria near the Turkish border in order to back up his old CIA buddy and Delta Force veteran Mick Boland to "Smash and Grab" a DOD source in a tight spot. But this need hadn't even existed two hours ago when a Task Force battle captain ordered Kane's unit off the mission they were on to go a few miles south -- immediately! It would've been nice to have time to prepare.

All of Kane's men -- Grinch, "the best backup sniper" a team leader could ask for, Zeus, a stocky Libyan with incredible shooting skills and Kane's trusty backup, medic Blaine, and "breacher" T.J. -- were uncomfortable about this but Mason accepted the order for another pressing reason: it was essential to get back in the good graces of the CIA.

By the time they entered the house where they were told the DOD source was being kept, with no sighting of Boland, the resistance they meet tells the team that the Jihadis knew they were coming before they got there and had set up a trap. The firefight that ensues gives us a taste of the style and realism Hood can with his background of tactical combat.

The ambush has everything to do with Mason's enemies in the upper hierarchy of the government, including advisors to the president. The last time they made a pass at his life they had labeled him a traiter and placed him on the kill-on-sight list. But, with the help of CIA agent David Castleman, who thought he was innocent, Mason was able to prove the real traitor's identity. Kane's patriotism remained unquestioned.

Now, stung once too often with cooked up orders, Kane decides to take "himself off the grid" and out of reach to an unknown enemy. If his supicions are right, the people re-writing the rulebook are after him and there are few outside of his team and limited circle he can trust. One of those is Renee.

Renee Hart is a DOD operative with extensive knowledge of the terror networks along with unexpected strength and skills to match the burly, bearded men who surround her on a mission. Her beauty is immediately established to every male sighting her but anyone who's seen her perform in battle shows her respect. Except for one man -- her team leader, Warchild, who calls Mason Kane chickenshit, and is constantly demeaning to Renee. He has designated her the radio operator, the most menial and meaningless job on the task force.

As she steps onto one of several hot helicopters wearing her assault pack, she picks up a call from Mason saying there's a "problem" and warning that the mission be aborted. His warning is ignored and the team takes off, headed for an exfiltration attack on madman chieftain Abu al Qatar's location, where, again, deep-cover asset Boland is supposed to be. Unfortunately, she's the only one who knows enough to put some pieces together and it dawns on her that Mason's probably right. Could old buddy Boland be a traitor trying to get them all killed?

What no one knows yet is what sly Al Qatar is plotting with his small army of maniacal jihadists, and what an effective and brutal enemy this evil mass murderer is.

Hood, a decorated combat veteran of the 82nd Airborne, who is currently a full-time SWAT team member in Memphis, is destined for success by writing some of the grittiest and authentic action scenes to be found in this highly competetive genre. His capture of a soldier's adrenalin-boosted mindset is totally engaging and cold when it has to be.

With all my high marks, however, there's also a couple of elements I found troubling.

The military communicates in shorthand. But if a writer relies too much on a reader's prior knowledge and leaves needed explanation out for the sake of word flow, some readers might have to fight to keep track. He lost me more than once. With so little to go by, for example, I had trouble figuring out who the DOD "source" was in the early pages. First, it seemed to be Boland. But, then, there was Boland's "source." Is this confusion my bad?

My second carp is in portraying a woman in combat against crazed zealots coming at her with knives and automatic rifles. In convincing us just how good Renee is as a fighter, Hood's portrayal of her exploits in a climactic scene reads as pure fantasy, along the lines of Ms Romanoff in the "Avenger" movie series. There are a lot of surprising things a top female athlete can do, but there's a limit. There's a line beyond which all semblance of reality falls apart.

As action fiction goes, this is explosive, no waste, high-paced material that has the taste of gunmetal. It puts Hood on the map for those who seek thrills in military settings.

If you don't yet own Warning Order: A Search and Destroy Thriller and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.