This is one seriously good thriller. Billed as "a novel of international finance and espionage," Den of the Assassin is a super-realistic exploration of frightening possibilities, unsurpassed heroism, Lucifer-like evil, and terrorism of the worst kind. When you look at the cover, which features a shot of the American Stock Exchange captured in the sights of a rifle, you might think this the novel revolves around some kind of Day of the Jackal-like assassination plot, but the complexity of this novel stretches its tendrils deeply into international finance, the vagaries of the American legal and health care systems, international terrorism, diplomacy, intelligence, WMD, and cold-blooded murder - with a little romance thrown in just to stir up the pot a little more. Peter Thomas does a masterful job traversing the inner hallways of diverse institutions as he slowly brings all of these diverse elements together for a slam-bang climax.
The novel is steeped in the new realities of our post-9/11 world, which gives the whole story a visceral prescience teeming with realism and frightful possibility. The focus also provides a warning of sorts, as the greatest danger to America may lie where it is least suspected. The potential dangers inherent in the secret black-market underworld (and the rogues' hall of evil men it does business with) of a still-troubled Russia become a clear and present danger as Den of the Assassin works its way toward its highly suspenseful conclusion.
Tyler Boxter is a young, well-respected investment banker working in the heart of Wall Street. He and his partner, retired judge John Morgan, are days away from finally realizing a dream borne of years of hard and highly secretive work. If eight Special Letter Ruling applications (SLRs) they have submitted amongst several federal agencies are approved, the two partners will thoroughly shake up the financial, insurance, and medical world by revolutionizing (and perhaps even fixing) the health care industry - they will also, in the process, earn almost unimaginable profits for themselves and the company. Tyler has basically staked his wealth and reputation on this plan, and it is a truly risky proposition - if a single one of the SLRs is rejected, the whole plan falls apart. The greatest danger, however, is that someone outside of Tyler's tight circle will find out what is going on and begin putting up legal roadblocks to keep it from happening. Many people stand to lose vast sums in the wake of this revolutionary change, and they will do just about anything to stop the deal dead in its tracks. Tyler knew that going in, but he could never have realized the true dangers he would soon be facing.
Tyler's greatest fear is realized when copies of the SLRs are stolen by unknown thieves. Thinking a competitor is out there trying to circumvent the deal, Tyler and Morgan bring in Judge Ronnie Pitt, a brilliant but disparaged 83-year-old lawyer and Morgan's mentor, and rush to move their timetable up so that they can move as soon as the applications come through (they hope). As things develop, it becomes increasingly clear that Tyler and Morgan have a much bigger problem on their hands than they initially thought, though. For reasons they can't comprehend, their ordeal seems to be linked to an international terrorist operation. Fears of financial failure soon turn to fears for their very lives and those of their friends and loved ones. What makes this terrorist threat so insidious and dangerous is the fact that it does not come from the likely suspects (e.g., al-Qaeda). The real enemy here consists of a criminal, Mafia-type organization of old guard Russian hard-liners led by an untraceable mad genius with designs on destroying America and using her pilfered resources to make Russia the dominant player in the world. The Father, as this mysterious entity is called, needs money - and lots of it - and he will stop at absolutely nothing to get what he wants - including the unleashing of an all-too real "mythical" superplague secretly developed in Russia's biological weapons labs.
Thomas displays a wealth of knowledge of geopolitics, espionage, and international finance, describing all the technical intricacies of the story's elements and implications with great attention to detail -without ever letting the pace get bogged down or become confusing to the reader. He also keeps a number of secrets close to the vest, saving them for just the right time in the story. This serves to make the book thoroughly believable and increasingly suspenseful. There's no shortage of action here. What Tyler finds himself involved in is nothing less than a war, and he must fight to save not only himself, his friends, and his company, but his very country from an unimaginable catastrophe. The Father's network of agents and killers is as formidable as they come, and the security-related forces Tyler brings into the game are some of the best money can buy. In the end, though, the drama becomes deeply personal, as The Father and Tyler Boxter rush headlong toward a face-to-face encounter of epic proportions.
Many a writer of thrillers seem to drop the ball somewhere in the middle of their novels, but Thomas' knowledge of geopolitics, international finance, and 21st century terrorist threats keeps the fires of detailed complexity and story evolution stoked and red-hot for the entire ride. Tyler Boxter is no James Bond, but Den of the Assassin proves to be just as exciting as any 007 caper - and much more realistic.