Spyder Hole is a thriller with a standard saving-the-world plot and somewhat interesting characters (all male), although the book is not really character-driven. It’s a good vs. evil situation, with some political commentary and some suspense, but not enough to make it a truly gripping read. It is also, unfortunately, very poorly edited, leaving the text riddled with hundreds of errors that detract from what is otherwise a decent story. Perhaps if the author corrects the text in a future edition, future readers may boost the rating up half-a-star. This is a reasonably entertaining read after you get through the lengthy set-up, but it’s not a must-read even for fans of the genre.
The plot of Spyder Hole involves a terrorist group that has acquired nuclear bombs and are threatening to detonate them, including one in New York City. The hero, Dan Halavi, is a former Green Barret special ops soldier who now works with the Israeli Mossad. The team working to save the world from nuclear war – and New York and other cities from devastation—includes a CIA agent, an MI6 British spy, and Hesh, an Israeli agent whose wife was killed by the same terrorists in a beach resort massacre described in the book’s first chapter. The author gives us glimpses of the terrorists planning and executing their plans and also jumps us to snippets of politicians and other characters, but mainly tracks Hesh and Dan, who failed to stop the 9/11 terrorist attack (also described in the early part of the book) and who are hell-bent on not letting another disaster of that scale happen again.
On the plus side, the author gives is an interesting story to follow, although it is not really a mystery about what will happen or who the villains are, but only what’s going to happen. The action begins in earnest with the scene of terrorists killing innocent men, women, and children at a beach resort in Israel, including Hesh’s wife. Hesh is wounded, and carries his grudge against the terrorists for the rest of his life. It’s a good start, although we then move away from Hesh as the focus of the book after that. The villains are unambiguously bad guys and the twists in the plot keep you reading to find out what’s going to happen. It’s not entirely predictable, and although there is a little dragging near the end, it wraps up in a satisfying conclusion. In the first third of the book, we get a lengthy set-up that includes following Hesh and Dan in the days leading up to 9/11, when they had the chance to connect the dots and (maybe) stop that attack, but failed. That sub-story was somewhat interesting, but could have been better. The characters are interesting and their interrelationships are intriguing, although there should have been more of that.
On the negative side (other than the copy editing issues), all the characters are male, leaving no hint of romance or empathy for anyone. Dan has a wife, who feels neglected by his globe-hopping assignments that leave her alone, but the author doesn’t really give us much insight into their relationship. Hesh had a new bride, and he misses her, but she’s dead and aside from Hesh’s anger and need for revenge, we don’t really dive into that relationship. The bad guys have no relationships of note, leaving the whole book dependent on the action and suspense (such as it is) to keep our interest. The action is there, but there’s not much suspense other than the ultimate question of whether New York will be dissolved in a nuclear cloud. It’s not a fatal flaw if you’re reading for the action, but if you’re a reader who thrives on characters and relationships, this book will leave you somewhat wanting.
There are also long stretches of historical exposition and political commentary that are sometimes interesting (and sometimes pedantic) but are mostly unrelated to the actual plot or characters in this book. The result is the feeling that there is a lot of filler material and the author expounding his own views on the state of the world that drag down the pace of the story.
Finally, many of the plot events happen with every little suspense. The good guys raid the hideout of the bad guys and kill them all and capture important information and documents (which is the origin of the title, Spyder Hole) that aid them in the next step of the plot. The heroes often face little opposition and the reader seldom feels like there is any chance that the good guys will not prevail. Toward the end of the book, there are some more tense scenes, but for the most part the tension that should be there is muted or missing. There are not some interesting twists, so the plot is not entirely predictable, but it’s not the edge-of-your-seat thriller that it wants to be.
The author here needs to clean up the text and get an editor for his next effort. There’s plenty here to suggest that the author’s Ghost Force series could become something very interesting. This is the first installment, and there are some growing pains, but the core characters could support future adventures that will be worth reading.