Baker, Adam - 'Juggernaut'
Lucy and Amanda are two freelance mercenaries who with their crew have been involved in hiring their diverse military skills out in several war-torn locations around the world; at present it is August 2005 and they are in Iraq. They have just come off a job and are talking to contacts when they hear whispers that at an undisclosed destination in the western desert, Saddam Hussein left hidden a huge cache of gold bullion. Saddam at this time is in custody awaiting execution. They go to Abu Ghraib Prison, 20 miles west of Baghdad and interrogate a former member of Saddam's elite Republican Guards. Apparently, the Americans were almost into Baghdad when this man, Jabril, was ordered to lead a convoy which included an armoured safe truck that contained two and a half tons of gold bullion, part of the personal wealth of the Iraqi leader. In the Middle East with frequent wars, currencies are very liable to become worthless so wealth was frequently stored in more tangible assets such as precious stones or metal such as gold. The convoy travelled under the utmost secrecy with an escort of 200 Republican Guards to a confidential destination in the middle of the desert.
The CIA are aware of the existence of a top secret Russian trans-orbital prototype called Spektr, which has fallen to earth in the western desert of Iraq. Only the highest levels of clearance even know about it. Field Officer Koell, the project leader, has spent the last decade and countless resources trying to recover the shuttle and its contents and now finally it is within his reach. After each chapter of this story a CIA "Eyes Only" briefing paper is disclosed.
Lucy and Amanda promise Jabril his freedom from Abu Ghraib Prison if he will lead them to the gold. Lucy and Amanda, together with their five associates hope that this gold will provide them with the wherewithal to finance an alternative, safer way of existing and finally retire from the mercenary way of life. They persuade a couple of owners of ex-military haulage helicopters that are capable of transporting several tons of weight each, to transport them and their equipment and armaments, to a location in the desert. Unfortunately, when they get there they find themselves marooned in an ancient citadel and battling with a deadly and relentless enemy that they could not have anticipated.
This is the second book by Adam Baker and of his first one OUTPOST, the author Stephen Leather said "It had me on the edge of my seat from page one". JUGGERNAUT had the same effect on me, it was a very suspenseful, engaging read, with unusual protagonists in that they were female mercenaries. It is very much more than the average "quest" type book and its very exciting, completely unpredictable plotting had me turning the pages very rapidly to reach the electrifying conclusion. Well recommended.
Terry Halligan, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.