Book Review: Backlash

“Backlash” by Brad ThorThis is the nineteenth novel in the author’s Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne. This is a very different kind of story from the last several Harvath outings, which involved high-stakes international brinkmanship, uncertain loyalties, and threats of mass terror attacks. This time it’s up close and personal. Harvath, paying what may be his last visit to Reed Carlton, his dying ex-CIA mentor and employer, is the object of a violent kidnapping attack which kills those to whom he is closest and spirits him off, drugged and severely beaten, to Russia, where he is to be subjected to the hospitality of the rulers whose nemesis he has been for many years (and books) until he spills the deepest secrets of the U.S. intelligence community.  After being spirited out of the U.S., the Russian cargo plane transporting him to the rendition resort where he is to be “de-briefed” crashes, leaving him…somewhere. About all he knows is that it’s cold, that nobody knows where he is or that he is alive, and that he has no way to contact anybody, anywhere who might help.

This is a spare, stark tale of survival. Starting only with what he can salvage from the wreck of the plane and the bodies of its crew (some of whom he had to assist in becoming casualties), he must overcome the elements, predators (quadripedal and bipedal), terrain, and uncertainty about his whereabouts and the knowledge and intentions of his adversaries, to survive and escape.

Based upon what has been done to him, it is also a tale of revenge. To Harvath, revenge was not a low state: it was a necessity,

In his world, you didn’t let wrongs go unanswered—not wrongs like this, and especially when you had the ability to do something. Vengeance was a necessary function of a civilized world, particularly at its margins, in its most remote and wild regions. Evildoers, unwilling to submit to the rule of law, needed to lie awake in their beds at night worried about when justice would eventually come for them. If laws and standards were not worth enforcing, then they certainly couldn’t be worth following.

Harvath forms tenuous alliances with those he encounters, and then must confront an all-out assault by élite mercenaries who, apparently unsatisfied with the fear induced by fanatic Russian operatives, model themselves on the Nazi SS.

Then, after survival, it’s time for revenge. Harvath has done his biochemistry homework and learned well the off-label applications of suxamethonium chloride. Sux to be you, Boris.

This is a tightly-crafted thriller which is, in my opinion, one of best of Brad Thor’s novels. There is no political message or agenda nor any of the Washington intrigue which has occupied recent books. Here it is a pure struggle between a resourceful individual, on his own against amoral forces of pure evil, in an environment as deadly as his human adversaries.

Thor, Brad. Backlash. New York: Atria Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-9821-0403-0.


Author: John Walker

Founder of, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of

One thought on “Book Review: Backlash

  1. By the way, I don’t want to admit how many times whilst writing this review I typed “Backslash” instead of “Backlash”.  It recalls the 1990s joke,

    What’s O. J. Simpson’s URL?

    http: slash slash slash slash backslash escape.


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