Ever since reading Point of Impact I have been a big fan of Stephen Hunter’s books. In that book we are introduced to Hunter’s protagonist, Bob Lee Swagger. Bob is also known by his nick name
“Bob The Nailer “, a name picked up in the Vietnam war as a USMC sniper. Bob, as you can guess is basically Carlos Hathcock if Carlos was crossbred with an American James Bond who was born in Arkansas and never bothered being a smooth and refined as Bond. Bob is also a bit of a low key genius with leaps of logic and deduction that would make Sherlock proud. And of course Bob has killed more people than cancer. Hell, he even solved the JFK assassination in recent years.
None of what I said is meant to indicate there is no action in the books. They are full of shooting and technical gun and shooting details. Hunter is a shooter himself and he clearly loves guns. Not just the shooting but also the technical details and minutia. Sometimes he goes into to so much detail it amazes me that the average non-shooting readers continue to read these.
The new book as Bob helping the FBI track down “Juba the Sniper” who is after a target in the US. Juba has to make a shot at over 1 mile and we get to read about his prep work and equipment ( AWM .338 Lapua Magnum) and all his wily tricks to avoid and mislead the people hunting him. That name is probably familiar to you because there was a sniper called Juba in Iraq during the late unpleasantness. That’s another thing about Hunter’s books. They weave in real world people. Gun world celebrities, politicians, military people etc. Sometimes they are the same name exactly, other times he changes the name a little for whatever reasons. for instance Carlos is a character up until ISniper, But his name is Carl Hitchcock.
Anyway. Bob ends up helping the FBI on a manhunt to capture of kill Juba before his shot. Its a twisting complex chase full of near misses, violence, gun world minutia and last second climax. It’s like most of Hunter’s books. A lot of fun Bob is always great even now at 73 years old. Which is making it a little hard to believe Bob can pull of the things he does. Though now Bob is less action hero and more of a brilliant detective.
A lot of Bob’s usual pals and supporting cast shows up in the book. His old FBI pal Nick Memphis of course, since it involves the FBI mainly, and Nick’s FBI co-workers and friends. If you saw the godawful movie Shooter, with Marky Mark you will recognize the name.
The FBI and its personnel and how they ( supposedly) work is a major part of the book. Which brings me to my gripe. The book often feels and reads like pure propaganda for the FBI in long stretches. Hunter wants us to regain our faith in the country’s supposed top cops ( TOP. MEN.). Yeah, it’s pretty heavy handed. We are told they are the utmost professionals at the upper levels. with no politics, just a drive to get the job done while impressing us with how great they are. It’s laid on pretty thick and clearly Hunter has some pals in the FBI. Past books have always show and admiration for the FBI and much disdain for the CIA but this time it feels like the book really was crafted around the idea of redeeming them in the eyes of the people who would read the books.
Now I could be 100 percent wrong. Hunter ha always had an obvious admiration for the G-men. His last book features the depression era Gmen as the main focus, with Bob’s Grandfather being the main character natch. But there are some passages near the climax of the book that makes me think he wanted to try to remind us that the top men are out there saving us. Maybe I’m too cynical these days so take all that with a grain of salt. it doesn’t detract from the book, but you may notice it.
If you like Stephen Hunter and Bob Lee Swagger, you will like this one.