The notion of counter intelligence even in so-called 3rd world countries involves the need for political fervor but also of an understanding of the rules of engagement. Emotion and loyalty always clouds these decisions in an intricate way. In “The Last Dawn” [Joe Gannon/Minotaur/288pgs], this idea takes on an interesting double-sided approach. Like an earlier reviewed novel “Passenger 19”, it takes into account exterior forces…including almost ex-pat revolutionaries…whose input changes the balance of power or at least the policy in the region. The crux here is a man Ajax whose first introduction is saving a woman who had been kept prisoner for her own actions. He saves her but disappears as she is knocked out. She wakes up resettled in Miami with no comprehension of what has happened. She finally gets word of his situation months later after being consigned to a psych hospital. In an interesting set of circumstances she, through the help of a Colombian high ranking officer, is able to sneak him out of her original country per se in a catatonic state even though it is assumed he was responsible for an assassination there. From there a double cross happens which brings Ajax right back into custody. The pair are essentially blackmailed into an almost black op to rescue the son of a prominent family who has basically gone underground with the militia. The snaking progression of the story takes many turns including poker playing with priests, kids with high caliber munitions and full on massacres inside cliff house mansions. Granted this bedlam is not far from the truth in some countries but here it feels only slightly better than chaos managed by very loose state guards of control. Ajax is a seat -of-your-pants hero who always wants to be the loner with a charm about him…the incessant rogue who always manages to figure an angle out with the right amount of bravado but with the slight possibility of being wrong. The more interesting character is Gladys. As a former rebel, she has layers of loyalty, intense military training and a fluid sexuality that allows her to gauge situations in often logical and tactile ways which makes her character unpredictable across the board. This is echoed in certain ways by many of the other women including their high society contact Jasmine as well as an old school elderly supporter and an escort with succinct security access who happens to like her. The biggest strength of “The Last Dawn” as a book shows a political and underground guerrilla war being adjusted by these very sharp woman who can strategize to affect the men’s inherent and effectively predictable bravado. The aspect of resolution and the stupidity of their target (the missing son) comes off more secondary despite its completion. The character themselves as a whole create more interest despite the fact that the plot itself meanders a bit too much.
By Tim Wassberg