Hayes and his unit were black ops, knowledge of their operation would be disavowed if they were captured or killed. When returning from a mission, they were ambushed. Hayes saw the man behind it and recognized him as an ally of his ambitious Colonel Riggs. Upon return to base, Hayes saw the same man killing-massacring-the civilian population. Hayes fought back, tried to defend the civilians, but it was too late. Riggs reported that it was Hayes and his men that turned, murdered the civilian population; it happens sometimes, he said, that black op units turn, forget what’s right and what’s wrong, he said. And, according to Riggs, it happened to Hayes.
What would you do if your government was trying to kill you? Frame you for killing innocent civilians while serving honorably halfway around the world? Hunting you like a terrorist? Would you run? Create a new identity? Or try and kill those who set you up?
In Cold Barrel Zero, the newest novel by Matthew Quirk, Hayes and his crew of US Special Forces soldiers didn’t do any of those things. Instead, they continued to protect and serve their country while dodging bullets and missiles meant for them, courtesy of the United States military.
Hayes and his crew went beyond clearing their names and reputations. Hayes viewed himself as a soldier whose responsibility it was to protect and defend the people of the United States, even though the government had turned on him. At one point, while a friend was trying to convince him to flee:
“I’m not running…”
“They’ll try you.”
“I knew what I was doing. If I broke the law, I’ll pay the price. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“Don’t,” Byrne said. “They might execute you.”
“I can’t kill them all. I can’t make the believe at the point of a gun. This is too big for Riggs to control anymore. I have to trust my country”
Those words, “I have to trust my country,” in a time where there is so little trust, were powerful to me, and were perhaps the greatest explanation of a motive for Hayes. But maybe Hayes had to trust his country, because there was nothing or no one else to trust.
Cold Barrel Zero, as a thriller, accomplishes its goals: it is exciting and fast paced, lots of action; an impossible mission of revenge, a race to prevent a terrorist attack in the United States, and even a little romance.
The ending was satisfying, but I have to admit a little disappointment that Quirk, having nicely set up for a follow-up, decided to see the story through. I would enjoy more from Hayes and his crew.
Quirk, Matthew. Cold Barrel Zero, Mulholland Books, March 29, 2016.
An advance copy of Cold Barrel Zero was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher via NetGalley.com. No compensation was provided for this review.