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Book Review: The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right side bar.

9780399165276_p0_v1_s260x420With his latest novel, The Kill List, Frederick Forsyth has come full circle since writing the timeless book, The Day of the Jackal. He returned to the formula that has made him a classic political thriller writer, using his journalistic instincts to make them relevant and realistic. 

The reader can draw upon similarities between his first novel, The Day of the Jackal, and his latest, The Kill List.  Both books were influenced by real life events: the Jackal is hired to kill French President Charles De Gaulle while President Obama chooses which terrorists shall live and which shall die from “a kill list.” Both books go into great detail about the worldwide hunt for the antagonist.

The intense plot has an ex-Marine, special ops person, Kit Carson, whose alias is “The Tracker,” assigned to hunt down and kill an Islamist extremist known as “The Preacher.”  This terrorist was put on “the kill list” after he radicalized a number of Muslims in the US and England to carry out assassinations, one of which was Carson’s father, a retired Marine General.  What makes the task even more difficult is that the identification and location of The Preacher is hidden in a morass of intricate computer defenses.  Among those who are recruited to help find the terrorist are a teen-age boy with Asperger’s syndrome, an expert in the use of computers, and an Israeli agent imbedded in Somalia. 

It appears that Forsyth wanted to give a heads up to those Marines who were killed in the US bombing in Lebanon in 1983.  He told, “This Hezbollah fanatic drove a truck into the US Marine barracks, causing a horrendous explosion.  A Marine witness kept saying about the Arab terrorist, ‘he was smiling.’ I believe this was the first time that the West got an inkling of the mindset of these Jihadists.  They are happy to go because they have either been convinced or convinced themselves that they are going into paradise.  I made my hero a US Marine Colonel, a patriotic man who fought for his country in the Special Forces.  He has now become a man hunter of a vicious killer. My model for the antagonist was the Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who preached violent jihad on the Internet, and was killed in a drone strike.”

Another interesting fact is the relevancy of a quote from The Day of the Jackal, “A fanatic prepared to die himself in the attempt is always the most certain method of eliminating…” Readers should remember this book was first published in 1971, thirty years before 9/11.  The author seems to also make the point in The Kill List when he writes, “Then came 9/11 and the West woke-up at last.” 

Forsyth explained, “I have been accused of seeing the future.  But people forget that 9/11 was not the beginning.  Al Qaeda was working against the US eight years before.  There were the two lethal bombings in Africa in 1998, the virtual destruction of the USS Cole, and the bombings in Saudi Arabia.  Within this period the US did not wake up.  It appeared the forces that be were asleep.”

The author has meticulously researched his book that is strong on insider knowledge about the military, high tech espionage, the existence of a government agency, Technical Operations Support Activity (TOSA), and the thinking of terrorists. Since he started writing this book three years ago it appears he was aware of information before it became public.  Anyone concerned about recent revelations should read this book because the author explains in detail about the secret government organization, TOSA, whose job is to find and eliminate terrorists on “the kill list,” and how easy it is to infiltrate a computer system.  A quote from the book, “It took forty-five minutes for the entire database to be sucked out and “imaged” into the duplicate, then put back without leaving any trace.”

He also gave a heads up that the latest book will be made into a Hollywood movie.  Unfortunately, he loses all creative control so it will be left up to the writer and director to decide how the plot will be implemented.

The Kill List shows how governments use all means available to win the war on terrorism and hunt down the jihadists.  It has topical issues that face the US and England today. Through a very entertaining story Forsyth is able to give details of the processes, organizations, and equipment needed to find the terrorists.