Monday, January 13, 2020

Book Review: 'Oath of Honor' by Matthew Betley

Ohio author Matthew Betley grew up in Cincinnati, attended St. Xavier High School and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he earned a B.A. in psychology and minors in political science and sociology. He also spent the first semester of senior year investigating felony murder cases as an intern investigator in Washington, D.C., for the Public Defender's Office. After graduation, he worked in corporate America for five years in Cincinnati before joining the Marine Corps in 1999. Matt spent ten years as a Marine officer and was trained as a scout sniper platoon commander, an infantry officer, and a ground intelligence officer. His experiences include deployments to Djibouti after 9/11, and Fallujah, Iraq, prior to the surge, both in staff officer support billets. Of important note Matt is a recovering alcoholic with nearly eight years of sobriety. He credits the Marine Corps with providing a foundation in discipline and personal accountability for his desire to initially seek help. Matt is open and direct about it and has spoken in front of large groups of people with one clear message - if he can get sober, so can anyone. He credits his recovery with providing the authenticity for Logan West's struggle with his inner demons.

With a bio such as this it is no wonder Matt has become such an important writer in the genre of military and terrorist thrillers. He knows the military, the legal system, and the impact of personal demons. But that does not always accompany a fine writing style: in Matt’s case the tools and the manner in which they are conveyed are married well.

Pulling the reader into the drama happens immediately – even for those who have not had the experience of getting to know Logan West from the initial book in this series OVERWATCH. ‘Akutan Island, Gulf of Alaska - The 130-foot research boat rocked back and forth in the frigid water as the sky darkened and the last remnants of dusk vanished. Rain fell nearly horizontally, battering everything it touched. An occasional wave from the winter storm crashed over the railing, spraying the deck with frost and foam. Anchored only a few hundred yards off the north side of Akutan Island, its captain had wisely chosen to seek shelter as the gulf side of the island succumbed to a relentless pounding. Unfortunately for the crew, the storm wasn’t the only force of nature stalking the prototype research vessel. From a perch nestled among the nooks and crannies of several large, craggy rocks on the severe slope of a cliff, a pair of night-vision, military-grade binoculars was trained on the boat. Their owner stared through the lenses and looked at the illuminated dials on his watch. A few more minutes and visibility will be less than twenty yards. Almost time to go. The team commander wasn’t comfortable on American soil, but his orders had been issued from the top of his chain of command, a chain that didn’t exist in any operational publication. His team operated outside the conventional services which his country boasted and was only called upon to execute missions in the most extreme circumstances. He didn’t question his orders. Assuming command of his elite team years ago, his first order of business had been the removal of all questions of morality and objectivity. The success of each individual mission was all that mattered, and he had yet to fail. Tonight would be no different. There were no signs of life on deck. The crew of six, including the captain and the two researchers, was riding out the storm below deck or in the wheelhouse. It was an advantage for him and his team—the weather would mask their movement. The commander spoke quietly in English into a slim, waterproof microphone that wrapped around from his ear to his mouth. “We go in two minutes. Conduct one last gear check to ensure no loose items. Radio silence until we make contact. And no matter what, the rules of engagement must be followed. No deviations.” He knew there wouldn’t be any, and although he’d never had to reiterate his instructions before, his superior had emphasized the point to him. Above all else, he followed his orders to the letter. “Wolverine, out.” The rain gathered in intensity as the final vestiges of light slipped away. Moments later, four dark figures nimbly crept down the steep slope toward the churning water below. Wraiths in the night, they vanished into the gulf waters.’

Matt provides a fine if too brief synopsis for this Volume 2, OATH OF HONOR - ‘The story moves from a resurgent Russian threat in the Aleutian Islands to North Korean spy ships to secret Sudanese prisons as former Marines Logan West and John Quick, now members of an FBI special task force, uncover a global conspiracy that threatens America’s position in the current international balance of power. Logan West and John Quick are sent to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to investigate the possible presence of a Russian black ops team on a mission to steal United States next-generation technology. The resulting violent confrontation triggers a global search for the stolen technology and threatens to pit the US against China in a looming shadow war and technology race. As Logan and John—joined by the chief of the CIA’s Special Operations Group, Cole Matthews—battle their way through Spain, the Mediterranean, and ultimately, across Sudan, an imminent threat arises at home that FBI Deputy Director Mike Benson must face and determine if it is part of the deadly global conspiracy.’

Thriller authors of this caliber are rare. Matt Betley has earned his kudos and his honors to our good fortune. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, August 17
I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.