An Intelligently Crafted International Thriller
Duel of Assassins by Daniel Pollock is a well written, intelligently crafted international political thriller that lives up to its engaging title. Unlike most international thrillers out today that focus on Islamic terrorism, Duel takes place over a few decades in the late 20th century, but primarily in the waning days of the Soviet Empire. True to the genre, Pollock takes the reader on a ride to numerous and diverse settings - from Eastern Russia to Afghanistan to Washington D.C. to Turkey to Potsdam
Duel, at its heart, revolves around the contrasts of its main characters, Marcus Jolly and Taras Arensky. The two met in Russia as young men, first as adversaries, but quickly became great friends through a mutually endured tragedy. Jolly is an American who defected to the Soviet Union and becomes an accomplished special forces warrior for the Soviets. Arensky is a native Russian who does the same but ultimately defects to the United States after a catastrophic experience in the Soviet-Afghan war.
The duel alluded to in the title starts when Jolly is called out of a semi-retirement to conduct a high-stakes assassination against the leader of the Soviet Union. The Western political elite, and even the Soviets, are starting to prepare for a post-Soviet world and if Jolly is successful in his mission, it would cause chaos to their planning. Given the dire importance of stopping Jolly, the Americans turn to Arensky, who now works for the CIA, to hunt down and stop his long time but rogue friend.
What results is a classic cat and mouse game between the two accomplished friends and killers. The reader is treated to some great action sequences along with more than a few shocking revelations and unexpected plot twists. And it's a testament to Pollock's skill and confidence as a writer that he gets the reader to cheer for the Russian born assassin over the American born assassin.
I recommend Duel to any reader that enjoys international political thrillers, particularly someone looking for an alternative to the much more common terrorism related novels. With Russia once again assuming its role in the real world as an adversary of the United States, there will likely be a resurgence in interest by readers for Soviet/Russian themed fiction. It's timely on Pollock's part that Duel is being re-released now and it should satisfy any reader's general craving for a political thriller, and especially those looking for a Russian/Soviet themed novel.
Reviewed by Allen Mitchum, author of the novel Trophy Target: A Lethal Solutions Thriller and others.