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The Rendition (An Alex Klear Thriller, Book 1) Hardcover – October 2, 2012
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Using knowledge gained from his U.S. Army training, Ashforth crafts a compelling novel. Intelligence officer Alex Klear’s assignment to kidnap an officer in the Kosovo military goes awry. He’s tortured and barely survives. Now retired, Klear is persuaded to get back in the game, lured by the opportunity to pay back his captors. Forced to work with a superior officer he can’t stand, Klear must utilize all of his contacts to try to discover the truth behind the imprisonment of another officer accused of murder. Ashforth brings plenty of authentic detail to the narrative and generates considerable suspense in the process. Readers who enjoy the military action and derring-do of Brad Taylor or Ben Coes should add Ashforth to their reading lists. --Jeff Ayers
"Using knowledge gained from his U.S. Army training, Ashforth crafts a compelling novel... Ashforth brings plenty of authentic detail to the narrative and generates considerable suspense in the process. Readers who enjoy the military action and derring-do of Brad Taylor or Ben Coes should add Ashforth to their reading lists."
"In THE RENDITION, tough, competent, quick-thinking Alex Klear is sent to the secret front lines of our war on terror―no matter that he’d rather stay retired from a job where the physical, emotional, and moral costs are high. Klear copes with one chilling faceoff after another as he fights to avert disaster for our country. Author Al Ashforth has in-depth knowledge of the shadowy world of black ops, where the “friendly” forces are sometimes bigger threats than the terrorists, and authenticity rings from every page."
―P. M. Carlson, author of GRAVESTONE
"A former military contractor who did tours in Kosovo, Germany, and Afghanistan, Ashforth (Murder After the Fact) brings valuable insider detail to this exciting spy thriller. Fans of classic spy fiction will look forward to seeing more of the indomitable Alex."
"...will capture your interest from the start...escalates with breakneck speed. If you're a fan of this genre, as I am, you'll enjoy this one."
"Kudos to Albert Ashforth for a smoothly written fast-moving, and suspenseful spy thriller. The Kosovo and Bavarian backgrounds and savvy, compassionate, likeable hero are particularly well drawn."
―Bill Pronzini, award winning author of the Nameless Detective series
"If John le Carre and Jack Higgins collaborated on a novel, it would read like Ashforth's THE RENDITION―if le Carre and Higgins were in top form. Put this one at the top of your reading list. It's a perfect blend of action and espionage."
―John Lutz, New York Times best-selling author of Serial
“Rich with insider detail, The Rendition by Albert Ashforth is not only exciting and suspenseful, it's intelligent―and a first-rate read. With reluctant private contractor Alex Klear in your corner, you'll never want for black humor, the highest tradecraft skill, and someone you can trust to have your back. I loved this book. I think you will, too."
―Gayle Lynds, New York Times best-selling author of The Book of Spies
“With plenty of twists, turns, and betrayals at every turn, The Rendition is a strong pick for those who enjoy international espionage thrillers, highly recommended.”
―The Midwest Book Review
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The good news: Ashforth, an ex-G.I. and former military contractor who has trained NATO troops and served in the Balkans, Germany and Afghanistan, has created an engaging and well-drawn protagonist, Alex Klear, who wrings some unique changes on a familiar character who in other hands might be a cliché: the post-le Carré reluctant warrior who is forced out of retirement to take one last assignment. To complete it, he must not only struggle against the evil machinations of the book's villains, but also fight his own callow and opportunistic bosses.
The novel also exhibits characteristics of what I call "red noir:" a plot that contains an explicit critique of capitalism as the root of evil, countered by a hero - in this case a spy rather than a private investigator - who must, to paraphrase Raymond Chandler, go down these mean streets seeking justice without becoming mean himself. I don't think it is too much of a spoiler to say that one of the primary villains is an immensely wealthy man, or that part of the plot mechanism involves the corrupting influence of his money on public servants.
Ashforth is aided immensely by his detailed knowledge of the espionage trade and the locales in which the action unfolds, and his novel's discussion of the business of spying has the ring of authenticity.
Add to this mix black-hearted villains, exotic locales and despicable U.S. intelligence bureaucrats and you have a classic suspense novel with an interesting twist: the story starts with a mission that is a colossal failure, and for most of the tale, the reader is kept wondering whether the hero will recover from this inauspicious beginning.
That's the good news, and it is very good indeed. Unfortunately, the bad news, while not a deal breaker, is sufficient to mar this otherwise excellent novel of intrigue: The Rendition, like so many other books on today's fiction market, is simply the victim of sloppy editing.
At times the resulting damage is relatively minor. A misspelled word or two here and there, some questionable grammar or garbled syntax are to be expected in genre fiction, so long as the mistakes don't distract the reader from the story that is being told.
But occasionally, the errors are enough to make a careful reader cringe - or tear his or her hair: several times Ashforth repeats himself, occasionally even using the same phrases; this gives the reader the impression he was too lazy to look for a different way to express the same thought, and at one point, makes the reader wonder why he bothered to restate something he already made clear elsewhere.
On other occasions, he laboriously explains the meaning of acronyms that, by now, have become obvious to even an inattentive follower of current affairs. After more than a decade of warfare, for example, I don't think it is really necessary to explain that the initials "MRE" stand for "Meal, Ready to Eat." This over-explanation is particularly hard to understand given that The Rendition contains a fairly complete glossary of military and intelligence terms at the end, and anything Ashforth thinks the reader might be unfamiliar with could easily have been inserted there.
While Klear is completely developed in the novel, a couple of the other characters are drawn with less attention and skill. The book has three major female characters who could have been much more compelling if Ashforth had paid them the same attention he did to Alex Klear. One of them, a terrorist, simply cries out for further development in the book, but is abruptly dropped at a crucial point in the story. Klear's boss, Sylvia Frost, is presented in a way that makes her seem school-marmish at one point and coquettish at another; the discontinuity is jarring and the novel would have been more satisfying if the conflicts had been smoothed out. The third woman, a Munich detective of police, is the least satisfying of all, since she is simply sketched and never thoroughly developed as a distinct individual.
But it's probably too much to expect perfection in a vacation bonbon like The Rendition. Suffice to say that Ashforth gets the job done very nicely, and his spy yarn can be consumed in a single setting, albeit one that is on the longish side, considering that the paperbound edition is 358 pages long. It is a perfect book for summer reading or a long plane ride - say from the U.S. to Germany.
I worked or traveled in all of the areas that form the setting of this novel, and I served in the same type of unit and graduated from some of the same military courses as Alex Klear, the main character. I believe the author did an excellent job of portraying the attitude, mentality, and professionalism of most men who have graduated from such courses and served in such units. In fact, I only found one thing throughout the entire novel I would quibble with: A character refers to an instructor from the US Army Ranger School as a “DI” (drill instructor), but instructors at Ranger School are referred to as RIs (Ranger Instructors). It's a very minor mistake--maybe just a typo--and did nothing to slow or discourage my interest in the story. By then I was engaged, and I wanted to know what happened. That's the kind of story this is: I was hooked from the beginning and I stayed that way until the end, partly because the author does know so much about the places and people in the story.
Anyone interested in the role or activities of the US military in Southern Germany over the years will also appreciate this novel, as Alex Klear travels from the Balkans to Munich—where he calls on old contacts in the local police—in an attempt to accomplish his mission.
Finally—and most importantly for me—the story ends well. Alex Clear did something he didn’t have to do, in order to help someone else. There are people like that in the world. It’s good to read about them in novels, too.
I recommend this novel for anyone interested in the conflict or cultures of the Balkans, or in US military or intelligence activities in the Balkans or Germany.