~ About the Book ~
Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator.
Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.
Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating–he’s using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.
Series: #2 The Tox Files
Genre: Military Suspense/Thriller
Release date: 5 September 2017
Publisher: Bethany House
~ Excerpt ~
“Vigilante.” It hurt to say. Felt like coughing up a decade of combat experiences, as if the military code of honor had been wadded up and lodged in his throat. But even as he avoided choking on the brittle word, a new wave of dread hit him. Why had they brought him here? All this could’ve been delivered via phone. Most of it in an e-mail.
“You know him best.” General Savakis seemed to read the question thumping through Tox’s mind. “Would you say that’s right, son?”
“No, sir,” Tox ground out. He wasn’t playing into their hands. Not against a friend. “That’d be his wife.”
“Late wife,” Iliescu corrected. “Divorce was finalized in August of last year, and three months later she and their daughter died in a car accident.”
Double whammy. One Tox thought might have an insinuation. “You think he killed his wife and kid?”
“Wouldn’t be the first soldier to go off the rails after a divorce.”
“No way,” Tox said, snorting in disbelief. “Alec loved her. No way he would’ve killed her or their daughter.” He was sinking, losing ground, losing hope that this was all just a really bad assumption. A bad dream.
“You spoke very highly of him in your AARs, Russell,” Savakis said as he tugged off his glasses again. “Did you lie on them?”
“No.” Tox had never lied on an after action review.
Savakis’s hard eyes raked Tox. He aimed those thick shoulders and gold stars at him. “You worked together for two years.”
Tox held his position. “Eighteen months.” Night and day. Mission after mission. Together, they’d endured many a dark night.
“In fact,” Rodriguez said, hoisting himself into the fray, “I have a report here from McKenna that says you and King were like brothers.”
“Not like.” Tox spoke evenly. “We were. Soldiers, the men I fight with, are my family. We eat, sleep, and breathe the same air, chaos, bloodshed, and war.”
“Closer than your own brother, your biological brother?” Iliescu had a way of asking question without the sharp, icy barbs. A technique borne out of years working clandestine operations. He excelled at concealing his feeling behind a blank façade.
So did Tox, and he knew to expect it. And deflect. “Until this year, my brother and I hadn’t spoken in nearly a decade.”
“So that’s a yes?”
Tox gave a sharp nod, anger and frustration writhing beneath his tenuous restraint. He knew what was coming. “With all due respect, sirs,” he said carefully but forcefully, “why does this matter? Every soldier treats those fighting with him like a brother. We’re close. We have to be, because we have to trust each other with our six when the crap hits the fan, as it always does. Alec and I worked well together. He was an excellent soldier.” His gaze shifted. Might as well breach the door they were avoiding. “But that’s not why we’re here.”
“You want me to find Alec and bring him in.”
“No.” Savakis snapped his folder shut, the harsh should silencing the room. Thick, meaty fingers folded over the file.
Blinking, Tox resisted the temptation to sit back, conceding ground. “Then what?”
“We want you to locate and neutralize him.”
~ Review ~
Step aside, Frodo Baggins. Indiana Jones, eat your heart out! Cole ‘Tox’ Russell is on the job, and while he may be full of self-doubt, I’m with Haven. He’s the best!
Seriously, I’m not sure what I can say about Ronie Kendig or her books that I haven’t said already. Some writers are great with the high-stakes action, others are great at delving into their characters and really getting to the heart of what makes them tick, but I have never come across an author who combines the two as well as Ronie Kendig. And with Tox–no, I’ll follow Haven’s example and call him Cole–with Cole, the emotional stakes are as confronting as the physical stakes. Because there’s a fine line between confronting evil and becoming it. And if Alec isn’t redeemable, then neither is he.
And Haven… What a fabulous character. Intelligent, wise (yes, there’s a subtle difference), grounded, and for Cole, exactly what her name implies. I love how much we can see and feel that in this novel, and I love the tension that it creates in their relationship. It’s the best kind of tension; the kind of tension that grows the muscle of their relationship, constantly creating little tears that knit back together to make them stronger.
And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the actual plot. I wasn’t joking when I said ‘Indiana Jones eat your heart out’. And yes, this is one epic journey in order to destroy an artefact that slowly decays the moral judgment of the wearer, so I imagine that if Cole and Frodo Baggins ever met, they’d do that silent nod of acknowledgement thing that only guys who’ve confronted evil and triumphed can do.
And the dynamics in this team! The banter, the intelligence, the brotherhood, the tension. There are so many other stories there just waiting to be unearthed. Like Ram and Tzivia. And then the appearance of a surprise character that will thrill long-time fans of Kendig’s books (particularly if you’re anything like me!)
This series holds more awesomeness than one series should rightly be able to claim, but you won’t hear me complaining! Instead, I’ll be sending it straight to the pool room!
I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ Previous Books in the Series ~
~ About the Author ~
An Army brat, Ronie Kendig grew up in the classic military family, with her father often TDY and her mother holding down the proverbial fort. Their family moved often, which left Ronie attending six schools by the time she’d entered fourth grade. Her only respite and “friends” during this time were the characters she created.
It was no surprise when she married a military veteran—her real-life hero—in June 1990. Married more than twenty years, Ronie and her husband have homeschooled for the last eighteen years. Despite the craziness of life, Ronie finds balance and peace with her faith, family, and retired military working dog in Northern Virginia.