Title: Arctic Event
Author: James H. Cobb
Cobb, James H. (2007). Robert Ludlum’s The Arctic Event. New York: Grand Central Pub.,
- Smith, Jon (Fictitious character)–Fiction.
- Airplanes, Military–Accidents–Canada, Northern–Fiction.
- World War, 1939-1945–Aerial operations, Soviet.
- United States–Foreign relations–Russia (Federation)–Fiction.
- Russia (Federation)–Foreign relations–United States–Fiction.
- Arctic regions–Fiction.
Date Updated: June 9, 2017
This book is one in the series Covert One, created by Robert Ludlum.
On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, researchers discover the wreckage of a mysterious World War II-era aircraft, a discovery that forces the Russian Federation into a shocking admission. The unmarked plane is a Soviet strategic bomber that disappeared with its crew more than fifty years ago while carrying two metric tons of weaponized anthrax.
Desperate to prevent a political and diplomatic firestorm, the U.S. president dispatches a Covert-One team led by Lieutenant Colonel Jon Smith to the crash site. But others have reached the frigid, windswept island first, including an international arms dealer and his crew of vicious mercenaries. As for the Russians, they are lying: a second, even deadlier secret rests within the hulk of the lost bomber, a secret the Russians are willing to kill to protect. Trapped in a polar wilderness, Smith and his team find themselves fighting a savage war on two fronts–against an enemy they can see and another hiding within their own ranks.
Cobb’s latest Covert-One novel comes to us under the Ludlum rubric, consistent with the endlessly high pace, supercharged energy and international intrigue characteristic of the franchise. While the concept of the plot might stretch credulity, it doesn’t go too far for the inveterate action thriller fan and has the great virtue of high craft in the writing — well up to the standards of Eric Van Lustbader who wrote the preceding two Ludlum sagas.
Wednesday Island, a remote, hostile place a short distance from the Earth’s magnetic pole, is an excellent challenge for an intrepid climbing team. When a member of just such a group spots a strange sight a plane on a glacier!—the adventure becomes more than a recreational outing.
Word goes out under official secrecy and the craft is identified as a World War II era Soviet strategic bomber—a discovery that has all the potentials of a diplomatic cataclysm. The Russians, currently engaged in an anti-terrorism pact with President Samuel Castilla and the U.S. government, reveal that the long-lost Tupolev Tu-4 heavy bomber, called the Misha 124, is a strategic biological weapons platform loaded with weaponized Anthrax. The plane and its cargo were lost 50 years ago—an admission forced on its manufacturers by the untimely and hugely embarrassing sighting. Worst of all, the deadly bacterial agent must be presumed viable.
Knowing that any admission by the Russians is like the one ninth of an iceberg that’s visible above sea level, Castilla suspects there’s much more to the story than the official line, but agrees to a cooperative approach toward the recovery and elimination of the weapon. Tasked to coordinate with our old Cold-War enemies in as diplomatic a way as possible under obviously competitive circumstances is Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Smith, MD, who immediately puts together a team of “mobile cipher” agents of exceptional skill to get to the crash site first.
Spicing up the operation are two gorgeous military-trained women, presumably to provide the sexual tension dimension in the rigorous reaches of human habitability. Not so credible when you consider the physical demands, but there are demands and then there’s fiction. The choice brings in a dynamic that has its allure for men of the species and satisfaction for the feminist wing of the action demographic. Call it a win-win.
The women are: Randi Russell, who had spied in Red China for the CIA and has past history with team leader Smith which, for all her dedication, first-class experience and pilot training, could spell attitudinal trouble; and Valentina Metrace, professor of history and an equally smashing head turner of a more aggressive and sexually lively personality. She is to be Smith’s executive officer.
The fourth member is Russian liaison officer Major Gregori Smyslov of the Federation Air force, required by the Soviets to satisfy political demands. The major will ostensibly “aid and observe the team efforts,” officially. But his true task is to blunt the American effort and to facilitate the secret task force the Russians are sending out to “protect” the evidence. As for the good major himself, he’s more than a straight spy-automaton from the KGB, but a rather conflicted man with independent judgment. His wavering calculations between duty and decency generate a key vibe for Smith to assess. The question of Smyslov’s true values won’t be answered until the confrontations begin.
The more lethal threat is Anton Kretek, one ruthless arms dealer with spies everywhere and loyalty only to those who pay him best. To him, the anthrax is treasure that he will obtain at all costs. He brings in a twenty-man security and technical team, two helicopters, explosives and industrial equipment to thwart the plans of both the Russians, who will kill anyone to protect their secrets, and the Americans, who have a lot to lose if the biological agent isn’t destroyed and the full truth isn’t uncovered.
With precision staging, author Cobb’s mission is to convince us of his depth of knowledge about military culture, methodology, weaponry and the extremes of human savagery and survival—and he doesn’t let his readers down. His detailing of escape and evasion in the Arctic environment is tense and gripping—a lively demonstration of story structure and dramatic skill on the Ludlum scale of international intrigue.
This series seems to me to be much better written than some of the other series spawned by Ludlum and picked up by other writers.