Friday, November 19, 2010

‘Certain Jeopardy’ by Captain Jeff Struecker with Alton Gansky – Book Review

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I am normally not a reader of military-themed books. However, the latest book in my ‘to read’ list is ‘Certain Jeopardy’ by Captain Jeff Struecker and Alton Gansky.

Here is the synopsis of this amazing novel:

Six American men live behind a protective façade; their real work hidden from neighbors and friends. Different in countless ways, they are intimately the same in one; at any moment their lives can be altered with a phone call, and their actions may change the world. They are Special Ops. And one team’s mission is about to hit certain jeopardy status when the discovery of an Al Qaeda base in Venezuela becomes secondary to thwarting the transport of a nuclear weapons expert from that training camp to Iran. Informed by the true combat experience on Captain Jeff Struecker and finessed by award-winning novelist Alton Gansky, Certain Jeopardy is an immersing and pulsating fictional account of what really happens at every level of a stealth engagement; the physical enemy encounter, the spiritual war fought within a soldier, and the emotional battles in families back at home.

Here are the biographies of these two authors:

Chaplain (Captain) Jeff Struecker is a decorated member of the United States Army’s most elite fighting corps whose personal experiences in Mogadishu, Somalia, were written about in the New York Times bestseller and major motion picture Black Hawk Down. In thirteen years of active duty, he also fought in Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Iris Gold in Kuwait. As a chaplain Jeff has done multiple tours in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He uses his personal story of survival on the battlefield to tell others how they, too, can be prepared for any circumstance life may bring.
Alton Gansky is a Christy Award-nominated and Angel Award-winning author who writes to stimulate thinking about spiritual matters. He served as a pulpit minister for twenty years and has published nearly thirty books. Alton and his wife, Becky, have three children and five grandchildren and live in the High Desert area of Southern California. 

Here is the book trailer for this action-packed novel:

The Prologue gives us an idea of what the book will provide – a little bit of humor and a lot of action. Here is a scene in Afghanistan introducing us to the six main characters:  

Sgt. First Class J.J. “Colt” Bartley and Master Sgt. Richard “Shaq” Harbison were paired a dozen yards away, almost invisible in their white camouflage and hunkered in a shallow trench. A few yards beyond them were Jose Medina, the team medic, and Martin Caraway. Caraway was the cause of all of this – Caraway and the goats.
Moyer wondered at the irony of it all. Years of training, the best intelligence, the finest equipment, a score of missions under their belts, and they get upended by goats. He could see the writing on his tombstone: TRAINED BY THE ARMY. BETRAYED BY A GOAT. KILLED BY THE TALIBAN. (p. 2)

Here’s another example of the humor and humanity of the men in this book. Here’s an exchange during a precarious predicament:

“I don’t recall reading about this in the recruitment brochure, Boss.”
It’s in the fine print, Caraway. You with us, Doc?” 
“Shaken and stirred but still in one piece.”                               
Relief flooded Moyer. “Injuries?”                                                        
“I could use a nurse, Boss.”                                           
“You’re hurt, Caraway?”
“No, I just like nurses.” (p. 10)

I really appreciated the fact that the authors focused on not only the six main characters, but their families back in the States. That made the book more appealing to me; I had more empathy for them. Here is an example of including the family in the story, as St. Major Eric Moyer thinks about his loved ones:

He saw his wife, strawberry blonde hair tickling the tops of her shoulders when she wore that yellow sundress he liked so much. Her image faded, replaced by Gina, his twelve-year old daughter. He had no free will with her. She could ask for the moon to be painted pink and Moyer would grab a ladder and have a go at it. Rob was a different matter. Sixteen years old and pushing every border and pressing every button Moyer had. They had argued just the night before, and Moyer lowered the boom. Odd, he was having trouble remembering what the argument had been about. (p. 17)

Despite that, I still am surprised how men who join the military, especially in a career Special Operations capacity, marry and have a family. The women (and men) who marry these people have to have a special constitution; it is not a situation in which I would be comfortable. I am not selfless enough to allow my husband to risk his life like that. It is a good thing Fred was in the Navy long before we met!        

One of the primary characters, J.J. Bartley is a strong Christian. He has gotten a lot of grief from his colleagues for his faith. Here’s a conversation between him and his commanding officer, Moyer; Moyer:

“I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t do this work and be a Christian. I’d have to give up one.”
The words soured J.J. “I couldn’t do this without being a Christian. It’s how I keep my sanity. It keeps me human.” He studies Moyer’s expression. “I’m talking about me and no one else, you understand.”
“Yeah, I got it.” After a moment, Moyer said, “You had me worried. I thought the team was going to lose you.”
“Lose me? Why would you think…oh, Afghanistan.”
“You looked pretty shook – no, not shook – troubled. You looked troubled at the end.”
… “I won’t lie to you, Boss. It bothered me. Still does. I helped kill a couple of men who did nothing more than follow their sheep into the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, we made the world a slightly better place by defeating a terrorist cell. No worries. I’m not going anyplace the Army doesn’t send me.”
“That’s good. The Army spent a ton of money training you. I’d hate to think my hard-earned tax dollars went for nothing.”
“Hey, I pay taxes too.” (p. 75)

The majority of the action in this action-packed book takes place in Venezuela. The main protagonist is Antonio Santi. Here is a peek into his mindset:

Antonio Santi had headed home for the day. Although the day’s activities would have tired most men, Santi felt energized. Juggling his duties as foreign minister with business dealings even President Chavez didn’t know about provided him the intellectual thrill he longed for. Younger men might bungee jump, ride a kayak over churning rapids, hunt big game in the jungle or cheat with other men’s wives. Santi got his adrenaline rush from working behind the scenes. The danger he faced was discovery, pure and simple. Chavez was not a man of scrupulous honesty, but he was a priest compared to his own foreign minister. (p. 177)

Fortunately, I like all different types of books; I am not strictly a ‘chick lit’ kind of gal! This book will probably be enjoyed more by men than by women. Having said that, I really liked it! It kept me riveted throughout, and I was interested in finding out what was going to happen to these six men and the people who love them. This is the first book I have read from either of these authors. I am assuming it was a real collaboration, with Captain Struecker writing from his military experience, and Mr. Gansky tweaking the book and giving it more finesse. However it was done, they did a great job with it! Since the release of this book, there has been a second novel by these two authors, ‘Blaze of Glory.’ I trust that that one is just as suspenseful and riveting as is this one. If you like Christian suspense and are a fan of the military, these books are right up your alley!

You can order this book here.

The book was published by B and H Publishing Group and provided by the Suspense Zone for review purposes. The copy I have is an Advance Reader’s Copy; the page numbers included with the quotes in this review may not correspond with the page numbers in the final printed version. 

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