Nuclear disaster is rarely far from the surface in “Three Minutes to Midnight,” the latest military/espionage thriller from retired Brig. Gen. A.J. “Tony” Tata. His version of Armageddon begins right here in North Carolina, where he recently retired as North Carolina’s secretary of transportation.
Tata’s hero is Jake Mahegan, a 6-foot-6, blonde, blue-eyed Croatan Indian from Maxton. (Obviously, he must be a descendant of a Lost Colonist.) A former Delta Force officer, Mahegan now works as an off-the-books agent for Maj. Gen. Bob Savage with Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.
At the beginning of “Three Minutes to Midnight,” Mahegan is on personal time, hunting down the thugs who raped and murdered his mama when he was just a kid. Duty calls, however, when an Army geologist is kidnapped in Cary, barely 48 hours after her return from a tour in Afghanistan.
Who wants a geologist? Mahegan quickly finds traces of multiple plots. There’s a (possibly) rogue CIA mission to steal natural gas from Pakistan by horizontal drilling. Another scheme to steer tankers loaded with liquid natural gas as floating truck bombs into East Coast ports. And, yes, a commando mission to turn three North Carolina nuclear power plants into Fukushima-style environmental disasters.
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Behind it all: A coalition of Chinese and Russian operatives, including a team of ex-Russian Spetsnaz commandos.
Only Jake Mahegan can stop them. As they say in Texas, “One riot, one Ranger.”
Tata will not be mistaken for a literary stylist, but he spins a good plot. Stuff happens, often quite rapidly in his narrative, from ninjas breaking into a private home to a suburban orgy that turns into a gunfight to a wild chase in a Crown Victoria extra-legally acquired from the Raleigh police department.
Sex happens in Tata’s books, too, like when Mahegan beds and converts a woman who thought she was a lesbian until she met him. Firefights, however, are much more common, and one gets the feeling they’re generally more satisfying.
All of which is to say that “Three Minutes to Midnight” will be catnip to fans of military fiction.
“Three Minutes to Midnight”
By A.J. “Tony’ Tata
Kensington, 352 pages