Book review; A Persian thriller based on a dangerous nuclear alliance

In The Persian Gamble, Joel C. Rosenberg picks up the threads of his riveting best-selling spy thriller The Kremlin Conspiracy, and races ahead with the follow-up.

The Persian Gamble Joel C. Rosenberg Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2019 448 pages; $19.56 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Persian Gamble Joel C. Rosenberg Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2019 448 pages; $19.56
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In The Persian Gamble, Joel C. Rosenberg picks up the threads of his riveting best-selling spy thriller The Kremlin Conspiracy, and races ahead with the follow-up.
The Russian president, Alexander Luganov, has been assassinated, along with the head of the FSB, Russia’s security service. The killer is Oleg Kraskin, the president’s son-in-law, who, totally disillusioned with the policies being pursued by the Russian government, is already preparing to defect to the United States. But when Kraskin learns of a nuclear deal that Luganov is negotiating with North Korea, and realizes that it could trigger a new world war, he takes the split-second decision to kill the president.
Marcus Ryker, former US secret service agent, is in Moscow to spirit the defecting Kraskin out of the country, while Jennifer Morris, the CIA station chief in Moscow, is standing by to help him. After the killing, Kraskin duly meets up with them, but an already difficult mission is made 10 times more so when they realize that they are on the run with the man who killed the president.
From this beginning, Rosenberg fashions a fast-moving page-turner of a thriller, played out in an entirely plausible contemporary setting. The reader is held riveted by a plot in which succeeding events build, one after another, to a hair-raising climax.
Rosenberg’s storyline is, in some respects, too convincing for comfort. The elements that could make it happen are all present in today’s febrile world.
The plot is easy to follow, though the storyline moves us rapidly from location to location. To help readers chart their way through it, Rosenberg provides a cast of characters at the start of the book. He lists no less than 36, each with a brief description.
The real villain in Rosenberg’s take on today’s world is Iran. With nearly $2 billion handed over to Iran by the US as part of the nuclear deal struck in 2015, Iran’s supreme leader approves the purchase of five Russian-made nuclear warheads from North Korea. It takes a good deal of persuasion on Marcus’s part, but finally US defense and security chiefs authorize him to intercept the warheads before they reach Iranian soil. Once they were in Iranian hands, they come to realize, war in the Middle East would become inevitable.
In attempting to accomplish this larger objective, Marcus Ryker together with the defector-assassin Oleg Kraskin and CIA chief Jennifer Morris have to avoid capture by the Russians. The plane in which they hoped to bring Kraskin out of Russia is blown out of the sky, but they eject from it just in time. Then it’s a cat-and-mouse game evading the police and security across Russia, while Ryker tries to convince his contacts back in the US about the Iranian-North Korean deal, and that the nuclear weapons are within Iran’s grasp.
Finally, Marcus makes a deal with the US government: he will rejoin the Secret Service provided they allow him to intercept the five nuclear warheads, which are already at sea. Ryker’s efforts to track down the ship carrying the weapons, and the breathtaking series of events when he finally succeeds, forms the final section of Rosenberg’s novel. The eventual showdown is between hero and villain: Marcus Ryker, and the Iranian leader who has masterminded the purchase of the nuclear warheads from North Korea, Alireza al-Zanjani.
Marcus Ryker is a typical action-savvy hero figure in all but one respect. He is a practicing Christian, and his deeply held faith emerges time and again as the plot progresses. This aspect of the novel perhaps explains why it has been published by Tyndale House Publishers. Founded in 1962, Tyndale House is the world’s largest privately held Christian publisher.
The Persian Gamble is not a short book, but it is constructed with very short and sharp chapters – 93 of them. As a result, the reader is kept on the alert, reluctant to leave the story, turning time and again to the next short chapter eager to follow one incident on to the next. The Persian Gamble is a thriller that falls within the category of “un-put-downable.” It is highly recommended.■


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