Genre: Spy/Thriller/Mystery/Romance (yes, genre blurring)
Publisher: Short on Time Books
Release date: October 19th, 2015
A woman and her two daughters are killed in a car bombing in Tel Aviv. The woman, Kat, a sophisticated academic, is also a Mossad assassin of nearly twenty years. Her husband, Pantera, identifies the bodies of his wife and children, swearing vengeance. Reaching as far back as 1989, to their meeting in Rome at a U.S. Embassy New Year's Eve ball, Deadly Dance starts the story of their relationship in the onion-layered world of covert operatives. Of necessity theirs is an encounter beset by lies wrapped in half-truths, concealed in shadowy realities. Kat and Pantera maneuver through action-packed covert operations, romantic encounters, torture and acrobatic combat, all while coming to grips about who they're hunting and who is hunting them.
Deadly Dance is based on the life of the youngest Kidon Katsa agent in the history of Mossad and her husband, the fabled Chief Black Site Interrogator, who worked under such special access programs as the Operation Copper Green (created under Donald Rumsfeld), the United Nations Security Council - Special Operations Group (UN-SOG), and Task Forces 88 and 121.
I was hesitant to read this book at first because you are told right from the get-go (in the synopsis) that a main character is going to die, and I'm such a sucker for happy endings, but what truly moved me about this narrative was the overall message: Kat and Marcus did get their happy ending through the twenty years they spent loving one another.
In the very first chapter we experience the deaths of Kat and her two children. I found it amazing that the author was able to weave a scenario where I became so attached to Kat and her children right before they were killed. There wasn't much time to get me attached to the characters, but he managed to get me there. The dialogue and obvious love they share for one another makes you want to hold onto them for just a moment longer since you know exactly what is coming and your heart is breaking for their predicament. Really smart set-up to the story, not to mention an utterly gripping way to pull me in and keep me reading.
Marcus, AKA Pantera, is a complex, multi-dimensional character whom I now consider my new book boyfriend however fan-girl and high school that might sound. Beautiful character development here. He's portrayed as a sociopath, the higher the IQ the less empathy someone has for their fellow man, and apparently Pantera is an absolute genius so you're not expecting someone who hates and disrespects women and feels nothing as he interrogates and tortures his targets to develop a softer side when it comes to Kat. This is what makes his character so compelling. To see him behave in a way he normally wouldn't, feel emotions he's never had before, and begin to consider a future with a woman he can love and respect is so satisfying.
In that same vein we see Kat as a man-hating, tough master assassin with no weaknesses, vulnerabilities or flaws, but soon we discover that her vulnerabilities exist within her loving heart-not something you would expect from an assassin-her anguish over the death of her brother, and her wish to make her father proud, something that seems to be nearly impossible in a culture and profession so dominated by men. Her ability to trust Pantera and the love that he wants to offer her is something that takes time due to her personal baggage and his own personal frailties. There's a lot of great internal conflict for both of these characters which makes for some beautiful moments of dialogue, connection and understanding in an environment that is anything but normal, healthy or even safe.
The details concerning life as a special operative with a team that goes on dangerous assignments was so informative. It's obvious that the author lived the life of a soldier within intelligence agencies, not that I would have a clue as to whether or not what the author wrote was a load of crap, but I don't see how any of those technical terms, events or protocols could be fabricated with such detail. This guy knows his stuff which helps to paint the most vivid, accurate picture of what is happening during missions and on the military base.
I've gotta be honest when I say that I read those torture scenes with my mouth hanging open and my mind wondering if those torture techniques are really used in interrogations. I'm thinking the answer to that question is yes. The use of humor that Pantera employs during these torture sequences makes the whole thing so morbid in nature, but at the same time you realize that their prisoners are just ridiculously evil, and information gained from them is going to save innocent lives. Then suddenly I'm just as gung-ho about the torture as anyone else in the room. Creepy, that! Once again, nice writing and presentation from the author. It's like watching a train wreck and not being able to rip your eyes away from the inevitable carnage...and then not being sure if you even want to. Just a heads up in case you're sensitive to that type of scenario. I also want to let other readers know that the book does contain profanity and some sexual elements, some of which I had to skip over. You've been warned.
The action during the missions was so intense. I enjoyed getting deep into Kat's profession and then switching over to Pantera's. Incredible to see how they were able to develop a relationship with so much trauma going on. At least, what any civilian would believe to be traumatic. I get that these guys are trained for that stuff, but dang, it makes you appreciate the sacrifices made by those officers who work to keep this world a safer place. Their camaraderie and loyalty to one another makes you realize that there are some people in this world who possess integrity and who are able to hold onto their humanity even when they have to commit acts that may not seem so humane at the time, but are done for the greater good.
From a technical aspect I would like to point out that the author does quite a bit of head jumping within scenes. Normally, if there are several points of view within one scene the narrative gets confusing because we aren't sure from whose perspective we are supposed to see events unfold. This was especially confusing when the points of view switched from Pantera to his teammates like Grit or Crackers. However, I actually enjoyed reading both points of view when Pantera and Kat shared a scene together because we received real time reactions to the other person's dialogue. Pantera would say something, and Kat would immediately have a thought about it. Kat would mention something, and then we received Pantera's thoughts and emotional reactions. I have never read a narrative where head jumping in a scene actually worked, but it really did between Kat and Pantera, creating a funny banter with the outer dialogue and witty reactions with the inner dialogue. Though not technically accurate in the world of writing, I found it worked for me, although I would suggest that the author try to keep from head jumping in other aspects of the book with different characters with whom we aren't quite as familiar.
I thought this book was amazing. Mr. Wallace has created the most compelling look into the life of a black ops operative while weaving in a story of love, loyalty, and acceptance, managing to stay true to Kat and Pantera's message of a rather unorthodox happily ever after. The two most meaningful words I could say to this author in regards to the opportunity given to me to read and review this book are the two words Pantera and Grit faithfully repeated to the women they cherished and loved: thank you.
I gave it five cherry blossoms!
The mother waved the café owner over. “Moti, we’re ready to leave.”
Alyn felt at ease in Moti Lichtenfeld’s café. Moti, a squat man sporting a heavy beard approached with a limp, a permanent reminder of his Mossad days. The longtime family friend and son of the founder of Krav Maga placed the tab on the table.
“Thank you for coming, Alyn. Please tell your sister to come by next time she’s in town. We miss her and … dare I say … her energy,” he said in soft Hebrew, giving her a warm smile.
“I will.” She pulled three fifty Skekel notes from her purse and placed them on the table to cover her tab.
Moti looked at Alyn’s daughters, and said, “Good-bye girls. Next time I shall tell you about the bull your mother and I wrestled when we were kids.” He winked at Alyn.
Alyn grinned at her friend and stood up. “Let’s go, ladies.”
Jade, the youngest, looked up with intense interest. Her inquisitive eyes sparkled at Moti, “Really? A bull?!”
Moti nodded and chuckled.
Electra watched her sister’s antics with an I-don’t-believe-this look while Jade continued bouncing around her mother. “Aww
Mama, come on ... You wrestled a bull? Just a couple more minutes, pleeease.”
Alyn shook her head, pulling her long, straight black hair up into a high ponytail. “Later Jade, now move.”
“Yes Ma’am,” Jade replied, extending her lower lip.
Alyn glanced around the café, then up and down the street. She smiled at the patrons who thought they recognized her as a famous local model. Electra, her oldest, a near replica of her statuesque mother, streaked up the sidewalk followed by the younger brown-haired, green-eyed Jade. It was a beautiful sunny day in the city as Alyn put on her Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and continued to scan the area.
The lone Palestinian’s dark eyes followed the mother and her daughters.
Jade jumped in the air and shouted, “SHOTGUN!”
“No way, you can’t call shotgun, Dad isn’t here,” Electra said, looking to her mother for support. “We only do that with Dad.”
“Jade. Let Electra ride shotgun this time. After all, we’re heading to your favorite mall.” Alyn raised her eyebrows at her fearless daughter.
“Yes Ma’am, but I get it on the way home.”
The threesome approached the old, meticulously-cared-for red convertible Fiat Pininfarina Spider. It was the first car Alyn bought after being assigned to her Embassy post in Naples, Italy, and the car that transported her, and her then soon-to-be husband, all over the Mediterranean.
“Electra, take that bag and throw it in the backseat, please.” Alyn motioned toward the car then stopped dead in her tracks. Something was off.
The Palestinian watched over the edge of his newspaper, a gleam of anticipation on his gaunt face, he was unconsciously holding his breath.
The girls plowed into the car.
“Hurry up Mom,” Jade shouted, jumping over the trunk into the backseat.
“Stop touching my hair, Jade!” Electra yelled.
Alyn’s highly-trained mind was racing through all the possible security options, when Electra called out, “Mom! Come on!”
Ultimately, she convinced herself everything was fine, gave the girls a loving smile, and entered the driver’s side.
“Thanks Mom. I love you,” Electra said, adjusting in her seat and shutting the door.
Alyn snapped in her seatbelt and turned the key.
There was a “click.”
Her mind became a torrent of thoughts, emotions, dreams, and experiences. They spanned nearly twenty flawless years of being a wanted intelligence officer. Her brain raced through the memories: From her conscript day, to her first Mossad assignment, to the last Kidon assignment a month ago, to her wedding, to her first child, to her second child and finally to the facial expression of her husband when they met for the first time. It all went black. This was the moment it ended and two precious daughters with it. The man of her dreams being unheroically left behind.
Sorry girls. Sorry Marcus.
She dropped her head to her chest and closed her eyes without enough time to even shed one tear.
Then ... nothing. She lifted her head and turned to see Jade playing with her mobile phone in the backseat, repeating the same sound again, “click.”
Alyn exhaled a deep breath and shook her head. Whew. I am getting too old for this shit.
Hearing the engine start, the Palestinian flipped open his phone, and pressed the auto-dialer number one button. He smiled and said, “Assalam O Alekum!” [Good-bye!]
The explosion blew the red Fiat into the air and rocked buildings across the whole block.