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By Ted Bell
Thorndike Press, Large Print Edition (2009)
ISBN 10: 1-4104-1234-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-4104-1234-8
Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - May 18, 2009

The James Bond like, British born spy, Alex Hawke is back, and facing one of the greatest threats of his career. Russia has reemerged as global threat, with one man, who with the press of a button can cut off all fuel resources to Europe, and launch the most destructive war yet. Hawke, a counter-terrorism agent slash spy, has tackled some hard cases in his career, but in this, the fifth book in the best-selling Hawke series, he may be facing a foe that he cannot defeat.

The evil genius behind the nefarious plan to elevate Russia to a supreme world power is Count Ivan Ivanovich Korsakov, whom the KGB code-named the Dark Rider. He has seized control of the Russian government and has set out to retake the former Soviet Republics as a first step to world domination. To achieve his goal, Korsakov is willing to use any resource he can get, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons! Should he succeed, the world will be a far different place than it is today.

Tsar starts out slowly, but rapidly picks up speed after Hawke is tasked with the job of forming a unit to deal with Korsakov - and they set out to complete their mission with dispatch. The story is well plotted and filled with unique gadgets, powerful weapons, SEAL teams, and a fantastically evil adversary for Hawke to fight against. In addition, there is a story within a story, dealing with a deadly attack on an American town in Kansas, an attack that just might signal the opening salvo of Korsakov's war against America.

The story also has a realistic bent to it, presenting a possible scenario that could come true if the right, or wrong, person, was to come to power in Russia. Ted Bell, the author of the Hawke series is in high form in this novel, with his Hawke stories only getting better with each new installment. In Tsar, Bell throws Hawke a nice twist by having him fall in love with Korsakov's beautiful and alluring daughter. He meets Anastasia 'Asia' Korsakova while recuperating from injuries he sustained in Spy, the previous Hawke novel, and falls in love with her well before discovering that her father is a megalomanic madman. Another nice feature of this story is that it delves deeper into Hawke's back-story. Hawke's father was a Cold War warrior, and in this novel, Hawke gets to interact with some of his father's old adversaries and friends.

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