Reviewed by: Dr. Wesley Britton
“While pompous politicians belch over their taxpayer funded extravagant lunches, real Americans are trying to do something about the horrors many precious fallible children of God are destined to suffer through. Hopefully this book will help inspire at least one leader to skip a lunch and DO SOMETHING . . . This work, is my attempt to spread the word [about the trafficking of abducted children] . . . If you wonder why this book is more expensive than the first two books in the An Cohen series, it is because a portion of these proceeds go to fund organizations that I feel are trying to fight this injustice.”
Spencer Hawke’s stated purpose in his “Dedication” to The Forgotten signals there’s more going on in this thriller than the sorts of pumped-up action you’d expect in similar yarns by the likes of Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, or Jack Higgins, among many others.
The third book featuring former Mossad agent Ari Cohen (following The Arrows of Islam and The Swiss Conspiracy) is a human trafficking mystery in which Cohen follows a trail starting with his criminal rival Peter Stengal, a.k.a. the Raven, who is involved in a cartel that kidnaps young girls and boys for sex, slave labor, and organ harvesting. It’s a personal mission for Cohen as his niece, Renee, has been abducted by a child trafficking syndicate in Paris. It’s also a personal matter for Stengel who seeks compatible bone marrow for his dying son before The Raven decides to team up with the good guys as he too is repulsed by the evil he observes.
Cohen has become an operative of Athena Ops, led by Col. Tom Burke headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland. Athena, established over 200 years ago by America’s founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, has many resources at their command, including advanced technological eyes-in-the-sky. Of course, such technology can’t replace a skilled asset in the field willing to face physical obstacles and match skills and wits with the enemies of individual freedom and, in this case, simple decency and humanity.
Judging from this book, the Ari Cohen series isn’t as hot-blooded as many other special operations books as the action is comparatively limited and the threat isn’t on a massive power-hungry megalomaniacal scale. That is, until the final 60 pages with the invasion into underground slave chambers and a slave auction in Zanzibar. Even then, the story never goes overboard with blazing gun battles or pyrotechnic explosions. In the background, but not the action, the husband of the president of the U.S., unseen Zulu warriors, and hungry lions prowl in the jungle but never play important roles in the escapes of the adducted youngsters.
I rather doubt Ari Cohen or Athena are likely to replace any reader’s affections for previous fictional spy heroes or their organizations. But it’s hard to dismiss a thriller with a purpose as important as Hawke’s. For that reason alone, readers who like espionage adventures should make a point of exploring The Forgotten and perhaps indeed be inspired to support the work of real-world efforts to thwart the evil fictionalized in the story. It’s a fast-moving read to boot featuring sympathetic characters with deeper than average motivations.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Jan. 9, 2016: