Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine–he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed, Tox is lured back into action.
Partnered with FBI agent Kasey Cortes, Tox has to pull together a team to begin a globe-spanning search for answers–and a cure. As their quest leads them from continent to continent, it slowly becomes clear they’re not just fighting a plague–but battling against an ancient secret society whose true goals remain hidden.
With time running out and opposition growing on every side, the key to everything may rest in an antique codex, the Crown of Jerusalem–but will Tox and his team be able to trust each other enough to break this century-spanning conspiracy of silence?
“Sergeant Russell,” said one of the women, “quite frankly, we need your expertise.”
“What expertise is that, ma’am?” He squinted, trying to make out her face in the darkness. Her voice was older, experienced. “Who am I talking to?”
“It’s best we keep names out of this,” came a male voice.
He’d been right. “So this isn’t about my experience.” He eyeballed each shape around the table. “You want me to put my butt on the line, but you won’t tell me your names or let me see your faces. You trust me to do this mission, but you don’t trust me to stand before you without killing you.”
“Without compromising us.” Light bloomed through the rest of the room. A man in a suit stood. “You’re right, Sergeant Russell. I’m Rick Hamer, director of-”
“Special Activities Division.” Tox knew the name because, though he might have vanished from the grid, he hadn’t been a stranger to it either. They should be glad they’d cuffed him. SAD was the same organization that’d ordered the bomb for Kafr al-Ayn, killed the president, and engulfed Tox in a fireball.
“Died three years ago,” Tox snapped to Hamer.
With a nod, the director acquiesced. “There is a situation that desperately needs your skillset.”
“Stop lying to me.”
Hamer walked around the table and stood with his toes to the bulletproof and shatterproof glass. “I get it. They screwed you over. Broke promises. It’s a crappy mess they handed you.”
Placating. Establishing a relationship with the target. Almost as bad as baiting. Possibly the same thing.
“Russell, we need you. We need you to do something nobody else can do.”
Confusion flickered through Hamer’s gaze. “Sorry?”
“Don’t feed me some pile of manure about how I’m the only one who can do this.” Tox nodded to the sailor who’d nearly taken him in Nigeria. “He has the skills. Heck, even that suit next to you might have the skills.” Easy, easy . . . There was no question why they wanted him. “But the only qualifications you really need are expendability and deniability. That’s me. Right?”
Hamer swiped a finger down his nose.
Yeah. Thought so. “Forget it. Let me go or put me back in prison.” No more baiting. No more collars or leashes. “Or kill me. I don’t care.”
“What about a full, legitimate pardon?”
Whoever had spoken had a voice like warm honey. Or hot oil. He wasn’t sure which. One was great for baiting flies. Another for boiling. Either way the flies ended up dead.
His gaze skipped around the table. A young blonde pushed to her feet. The FBI agent caught her arm, but she tugged free with a reassuring word to the suit. Athletic but thin, she had a presence all her own. Everyone in the room had locked onto her. Including Tox. Especially after those words – a pardon.
Words too sweet to be honey. Therefore, oil.
They were out of their minds if they thought throwing an attractive, naïve woman at his feet would coerce him into their game.
THIS. BOOK. IS. EPIC! And the series is going to be even more epic! I have been a fan of Ronie Kendig’s novels since the first one I picked up (and I’ve devoured every one of them since) but she has really hit her stride with Conspiracy of Silence. I would go so far as to say she’s carved herself a unique niche in Christian fiction because, in all of my wiiiiide reading experience, I have not read another novel or series that combines the elements you will find here: Black ops military action, archaeology, medieval history, politics, bioterrorism, genuine Biblical history, a hint of the supernatural, and the inevitable tangle of human emotions that get caught up in the mix. And it’s all written in Ronie Kendig’s fantasic, high-impact, über-engaging style.
The prequel novella The Warrior’s Seal deals with the event that led to Tox becoming persona non grata to the United States. You’ll get the basic details as necessary in this novel, but for the full story I highly recommend reading The Warrior’s Seal first. In short, Tox got a raw deal, but he sucked it up and took one for the team. Literally. Now that he’s officially, if not actually dead, he’s the natural choice to lead a mission where expendability is high on the list of desirable characteristics.
A deliberately undiplomatic incident is what sets the ball rolling in this story, but it quickly leads Tox and his team to an archaeological dig headed by Tzivia Khalon and Dr Cathey (also from The Warrior’s Seal), which becomes the focus of the story. They believe they have found the site of the Israelite’s camp in Numbers 16, where Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On accused Moses and Aaron of having set themselves (and the Levites) over the community as a priesthood.
The discovery of this site and its artefacts coincides with the onset of a deadly plague at the dig site; one that’s being dubbed ‘the New Black Death’. Is it a coincidence? Does it have a scientific explanation? Or has the plague that once took 14,700 Hebrew lives been unleashed again? Various members of the team have differing and strongly held beliefs on that topic! But the one thing they all agree on: They need to recover the artefacts, stolen by a centuries-old Order of fighters and assassins, and they need to prevent the plague from spreading.
Not only do you get adrenaline-laced, continent-hopping action, but there is a ton of interpersonal, and even some subtle romantic tension in the novel. (Forget the love triangle. This one’s a diamond… sort of… if you look at it from the right angle!)
For starters, Tox will only take on this mission if he works with his former team. Two problems: (1) They all believe he’s dead; and (2) Tox is the reason they lost their careers. Secondly, Tox’s brother, Galen, is the President of the United States, but they’ve been estranged for years – even before Tox’s ‘death’. Let’s just say there’s a girl involved. And it’s complicated. But that doesn’t stop Galen’s advisors from playing dirty to get Tox back in the States.
And then there’s Kasey Cortes. She’s Galen’s sister-in-law, and she always had a soft spot for Tox when they were growing up. Okay – she was totally infatuated, and she’s invested a huge amount of her time and career in trying to prove Tox’s innocence. Now she’s a deception specialist with the FBI, and she’s about to find out that Tox isn’t dead after all. And Galen wants her to ascertain if Tox should be recommended for a pardon, because that’s the only carrot they have to dangle in front of him…
I could go on (boy, could I go on!) but you get the picture. No one does multi-layered tension like Ronie Kendig. And her combat scenes! They’ve always been good, but HOOAH! (I had to get that word in somewhere!) Only one caveat do I offer: You will be both satisfied, and yet totally craving the next in the series.
This is the series of the decade folks! Don’t miss it!
I received an electronic copy of this novel from the publisher – and then went ahead and bought my own physical copy anyway. Because it’s THAT GOOD! And it’s goin’ straight to the pool room!
Release date: 6 December 2016
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Author’s website: http://roniekendig.com/
Read my review for The Warrior’s Seal.