Sanction by Don Bentley is part spy thriller and part
political thriller, combining espionage with military action.
In addition, the plot shows not only the infighting between
agencies but the infighting within agencies and cabinet positions.
In this debut novel, Bentley uses his personal experience
to enhance the plot. Serving for a decade as an Army Apache
helicopter pilot, while deployed to OEF, he earned a Bronze
Star Medal and the Air Medal with “V” for valor.
After his stint in the Army, he joined the FBI, focusing on
foreign intelligence and counterintelligence, and ending his
career with the FBI as a member of their elite SWAT team.
“When I was in Afghanistan, there was one mission that
went wrong. I was the air mission commander for an operation
to rescue four SEALs pinned down on a mountain top in Afghanistan
in 2005. One of the helicopters I was charged with protecting
was shot down. I examined what happened and broke it down
into three phases. Phase 1 had me thinking what could I have
done differently. Phase 2 had me wishing that I could get
that moment back. Phase 3 I had survivor’s guilt that
I was alive, and those I was supposed to protect are not.
My protagonist, Matt Drake, wrestled with that also. He is
trying to seek redemption and atoned for something he thinks
he inadvertently caused, the death of his asset and family.
Then he had to face his biggest failure by going back to Syria
where it happened.”
The main character in the novel, Matt Drake, takes on some
of Bentley’s thoughts. After retiring as an Army Ranger
Drake becomes an operative for the Defense Intelligence Agency,
DIA. He is battling demons that include survivor’s guilt,
PTSD, tremors, nightmares, anxiety, and depression. He became
a broken man after his asset, and his family was killed along
with his best friend badly injured. Now he is assigned a mission
to extract a chemical weapons expert, code-named Einstein,
who is believed to have created a particularly effective new
poison. Having to return to Syria, where the botched operation
originated, might enable Drake to live with his demons. The
mission is expanded when the President asks his help in rescuing
a paramilitary officer.
“I worked in a business company that was staffed with
those from the Special Service community, many from the Army
Ranger Regiment. The Rangers have a creed that still means
something, even when they are no longer serving. It guides
their life. The Fifth Creed says that they will never leave
a fallen comrade in the hands of the enemy. I brought this
to light in the story. I think the government makes a bargain
with those that serve and their family. Although it cannot
guarantee that someone will come home alive; yet, they will
come home one way or another. This moved me so much, I made
it the theme of the book.”
The subplot shows the petty political infighting within the
highest reaches of government. The President’s Chief
of Staff is angling to roadblock a CIA director who has political
ambitions of her own, with Drake’s mission falling right
in the middle of this elaborate political scheme. These exchanges
between heads of intelligence departments and White House
members created the feeling of playing a game of chess, where
every move was strategic and tense. Readers see President
Jorge Gonzales as someone who puts country over-ambition and
has to handle the infighting delicately.
“I wanted to contrast Matt with the chief of base, Charles.
Matt is a quiet professional. A normal man who fiercely loves
his country and has done exceptional things for it. He is
like the men/women at the tip of the spear risk their lives,
and most of the time, do not have the spotlight and do not
want to be recognized. 99% of the time, the nation does not
know of the job they did. Just look at the WWII code breakers
that no one knew about, including their families until their
death. The opposite is the other side, people like Charles.
These people are only concerned about their careers. They
could not care about the overall mission and only want to
further their petty little kingdom.”
This thriller has a lot of political drama, with Drake’s
desire for redemption at the center of the plot. The debut
novel shows how Bentley is a talented rising author. Readers
should anxiously wait for the second in this new series.