Books with terrorism as a plot line seem to be the favored genre of the 00’s. Certainly much has been made by the press of the concept that terrorists could attempt to detonate a dirty bomb in some densely populated place like New York. The consequences of such an action would be unthinkable.

Bernard Steele’s Jihadists in Death In Small Doses have radiation as their central weapon, but it is not for a bomb, their plot is much more insidious, to put it into a vapor and expose rush hour subway commuters. The effects would not start to be seen for days. The number of deaths might only be in the hundreds, but the destabilizing effect on the government would be incalculable.

Of course a major problem is how to smuggle radioactive material into the country? You can hardly stroll though customs with a tub of it in your carry on luggage. Who are the most effective smugglers? Well the drug trade clearly are the experts. While we watch CNN reporting about law enforcement intercepting a $10 million drug cache at the border, how many of those $10 million loads do make it to the market? The answer unfortunately is most of them.

Bernard Steele has created a very intricate plot in this book. He needed to create a segway whereby the authorities could discover the terrorists scheme, sure he could have had the NSA discovering some covert phone call, or email conversation, but this has been done to death in other novels. Instead he takes us into an interesting sub-plot, indeed it is drug smugglers that import the radioactive material, albeit probably unknowingly, and in the process they inadvertently contaminate a load of cocaine. When users and dealers start dieing the game is revealed.

One of the facets that I enjoyed was Steele’s Jihadists, yes they were as dedicated as the animals that pulled off 911, but they were also long term US residents who have become an accepted and mostly respected part of the local community. These are no AK47 toting thugs, but well dressed and well educated business men. There is also an interesting twist at the end of the book that certainly leaves Bernard Steele the option to reuse some of his characters in a future work. If he does take that road I hope that in book two he fleshes out the characters a little. I liked what I saw and think that someone like ‘Sammy the butcher’ (as in meat!) could become a great focal point for a future story.

I enjoyed this book, it is fast paced and written from several viewpoints. The different viewpoint style though, is one that has to be managed carefully in order not to confuse the reader. There are two aspects in particular, length of time spent with a character, if you hop from character to character every couple of pages, the book becomes choppy. Conversely if you spend too much time with a single character the reader loses the thread of what is going on elsewhere.

The second issue is how and when you segway into the change.

I think Death In Small Doses could have withstood a slightly heavier handed editor to smooth out the ride for the reader. But please do not be put off by that comment, it is still a very fine book, and for a first time effort Bernard Steele deserves kudos.

There is a web site that has more information about the book and the author, you can also order it through Amazon.

Simon Barrett

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