By Ronie Kendig. Barbour Publishing. $12.99.
If you ever wanted to get the feel of being in a war zone from the comfort of home, this gripping hybrid of sentiment and suspense delivers.
Kendig’s first novel in A Breed Apart series about military war dogs and their handlers introduces a wide gamut of personalities but front and center throughout are ex-Green Beret Heath Daniels and his four-legged partner Trinity, a Belgian Malinois.
Not only is Daniels battling Afghan fighters on the war front but the demons of war at home from a medical discharge, leaving him longing to get back in action but uncertain how.
The highly decorated Daniels and Trinity served several tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, but two weeks before returning home from Afghanistan for some R&R, the two find themselves involved in a mission that receives poor intelligence.
Trinity detects explosives and stops Daniels, leaving him with scarring on his right hand and a traumatic brain injury, resulting in the medical discharge. In the process, the soldier who trips the bomb dies instantly. A twist of events that eventually leads to infatuation with Darci Kintz, a U.S. Special Forces intelligence officer, produces more twists and turns than a James Bond thriller and an unexpected link between the two.
Daniels can’t accept being stuck stateside and out of action. Hoping it will segue in to a return observation and training trip to the war zone with Trinity, Daniels signs up for a tryout with A Breed Apart, a private contracting dog team. It does, and he meets up with several former Green Beret teammates, and here’s where the tempo moves fast-forward from base camp to mountain top.
Kintz dodges death but most members of the geological team with which she is embedded, are killed while tracking Taliban. She finds herself the search target of Wu Jianyu, a former lover (to whom she was known as Meixiang) and son of a high-ranking Chinese military general, and is tortured and targeted by him before he plans to remove her to nearby China where she would undoubtedly face death for passing along highly confidential information about the Chinese military to U.S. officials.
Before her capture, Kintz, a geological teammate and a homeless 4-year-old Afghan girl escape an elite Chinese military extraction team, and split up. The latter two manage to reach a nearby U.S. base and inform leaders Kintz is still on the nearby mountain with captors, setting up a harrowing rescue mission involving Daniels and Trinity, although neither are officially members of the U.S. military.
Daniels, Trinity and others manage to successfully extract Kintz from Jianyu’s clutches, yet find themselves facing a riveting do-or-die, rapid-fire scenario soon after at the base camp.
Kendig’s first A Breed Apart offering is a moving story of true grit, accented with passionate intensity and a free-flowing, unvarnished plot that will leave you on edge to the final page.