The Devil's Ransom - Book Review

A timely threat is personal in the latest Pike Logan thriller.

The Pike Logan books by Brad Taylor have always ranked high among my favorite novels. The best of them feature ripped-from-the-headlines threats, memorable adversaries, and personal stakes for Pike, Jennifer, and their team. The Devil's Ransom has all three, making it one of the better entries in the series.

Book Description:

Conducting a routine cover development trip to Tajikistan, Pike and Jennifer learn that Afghanistan has fallen, and there’s a man on the run. One that has done more for the United States in Afghanistan than anyone else. Pulled in to extract him, Pike collides headlong into a broader mystery: His covert company, along with every other entity in the Taskforce, has been hit with a ransomware attack, and there’s some connection between the Taliban and the hack. Given the order to track down the perpetrators, he has no idea that the problem set is much, much larger and more dangerous than a simple attack on his organization. That hack was just a test-run, and the real one is coming soon, engendered by a former NSA specialist in the U.S. government.

A man who wants to return to the bipolar world of the Cold War, the turncoat has cloaked his attack behind hackers from Serbia and Russia, and if successful, his target will alter the balance of power on the global stage. So far, the specialist has remained one step ahead of the Taskforce, but he has just made one massive mistake: hitting Pike Logan.

The story begins with the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. Author Taylor, who served in Afghanistan, wrote in his blog that the rapid loss of Kabul "tore a hole in my heart." This emotion bleeds through in the story, as Pike shares the disbelief and outrage, calling it a "body blow." When the team is tasked with rescuing one Afghan agent who helped the US forces, you just know Pike's going to pull out all the stops to get that man (and his niece) to safety.

The extraction is only the first layer of a multi-faceted story—maybe a little too multi-faceted, actually. In addition to the Afghan agent and the Taliban hit team chasing him, other players include a band of Croatian hackers, an ex-NSA turncoat, a Russian oligarch and his goons, and a billionaire on a commercial space flight. It's a lot to juggle.

Yet, somehow, it works. The elite Taliban team are challenging opponents for Pike's crew, a step up from the 1-800-henchmen they usually cross paths with. It isn't often that you see Pike get outright out-smarted, and I loved how both the teams were confused by each others' seemingly random interference. At one point, one of Pike's team looks around at the aftermath of a gunfight and says what everyone (including me) was thinking: "What the hell just happened?" It's a good way to shake things up for a team that's usually in the driver's seat.

The action scenes are stellar, as always, but one of my favorite parts is actually a little scene between Jennifer and Brett. She picks him to back her up, and when he wonders why him specifically, Jennifer says: “I don’t trust myself. But I trust you.” Later Brett returns the favor by explaining that he's there because of her. "You do what’s right. You always have. It’s why I’m on this team. I could have done anything within the intelligence community. I came here." Too often, Jennifer's only meaningful interactions are with Pike, so it's great to see her and Brett expressing their mutual respect. More Brett, please. I also enjoy seeing Jennifer continuing to struggle with balancing the brutally violent necessities of their missions with her own moral compass. She really is the perfect blend of badass and soft.

All that, and I haven't even mentioned the ransomware attack that threatens to expose the Taskforce. It's a jam-packed adventure—another great installment in a series perfect for fans of military thrillers.


  • Princess Power: 5 Stars
  • Overall: 5 Stars
  • Bechdel Test: Fail

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Mom. Writer. Gamer. Geek.
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