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Pandora’s Temple (A Blaine McCracken Novel) by Jon Land

Pandora's Temple Reviewed by Russell Ilg

Jon Land keeps the heat up with the best thriller writing you can find today. He has taken a break from the best series out there, featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, to go all the way back to his roots by bringing back the legendary Blaine McCracken and Johnny Wareagle who’d appeared in nine previous tales that ended with 1998’s Dead Simple. The McCracken series was the first Jon wrote, featuring the rogue agent the government goes to with impossible missions no one else would even think about taking on. Just another day at the office for McCracken who makes great use of the skills that made him an icon in his return to the page in Pandora’s Temple.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a book with so many twists and turns and classic action sequences. Make no mistake about it, this is a huge-scale thriller with nothing less than the fate of the world at stake and nothing less than the most powerful force in the universe posing the threat. This as the ever-vigilant McCracken faces turning sixty and beginning to question his skills, not so much because they’ve eroded as the phone has stopped ringing. It’s been two years since the government came calling, when all of a sudden Homeland Security approaches him with a mission to rescue four Brown University fraternity brothers from the clutches of a drug lord with hundreds of well-armed man guarding his compound in Mexico. The impossible rescue Blaine and Johnny undertake opens the book and sets the stage for all the equally redoubtable action to come. But all is not well, because one of the hostages dies in the process leading McCracken to further wonder if he’s lost his edge.

That question is swiftly answered when McCraken, and Wareagle, learn that the lone other surviving member of their Special Forces Vietnam A-Team is missing from an offshore oilrig; the whole crew is missing thanks to some inexplicable phenomenon the same Homeland Security that sent Blaine to Mexico dispatches him to investigate. What he and Johnny find on the remnants of that rig lead to a global chase for the most powerful force in the universe somehow connected to the mythical Pandora’s box (a jar actually, we learn). It lies in the equally mythic Pandora’s Temple, the search for which McCracken and his team undertake in order to save the world while battling two groups of adversaries with limitless resources hell bent on getting their hands on the “dark matter” first. One is led by a billionaire energy magnate and the other the leader of a Japanese doomsday cult. Both are hiding terrible secrets that have long scarred them. Both will stop at nothing to gain the ultimate prize. But neither will McCracken who sees in a young female eco-terrorist an oddly kindred spirit. She too harbors scars and secrets, clearly a dominant theme here in a tale that’s as much about healing as anything else.

Pandora’s Temple takes off like a rocket and keeps speeding along at a breakneck pace right up to the climactic mountaintop battle that comes in the wake of confronting killer robots and even a giant squid that pops up to take a bite out of a mini-submarine McCracken has commandeered for the cause. The result is as close to a perfect thriller as you will ever read, immensely satisfying in pace as well as scale, as Jon Land proves beyond any doubt that he is one of the greatest authors of our time and the best action writer in the world today. Less than a year after penning a non-fiction book on Mob kingpin Whitey Bulger (Betrayal) and his best entry yet in the Caitlin Strong series (Strong Vengeance), he’s back with the long-awaited return of Blaine McCracken in a relentlessly entertaining tale that’s everything a thriller is supposed to be.

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