Kill Zone was written by retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Jack Coughlin with some help from Donald A. Davis. It’s one of those books that I’ve come across several times over the years and always kept it at the back of my mind for another day. That day finally came, a day when I wanted some guaranteed action packed reading with a big dose of realism. This book certainly delivered.
The hero of Kill Zone is Gunnery Sergeant Kyle Swanson, a top-notch Marine sniper who often gets loaned out to the CIA for top-secret special assignments. At the beginning of the book Swanson is on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean with his girlfriend, Shari Towne. Shari is not only gorgeous, she's a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, currently assigned to national security and working at the White House. She's considered a brilliant intelligence officer. The yacht is owned by Sir Geoffrey Cornwell, an old friend of Swanson's and an arms maker who is putting on a demonstration of his top secret sniper rifle for potential financial investors that he's wining and dining.
While everyone is happily floating on the yacht, powerful people back in the States are putting their plan in action to create a New America which revolves around the privatization of the military. Their first step is to convince the President and the American public that privatizing the American military is the best way to ensure the safety of America from terrorists. In order to do that they plan to set-up the US military to show it as ineffectual and inept compared to private forces. They have small and large teams all over the world that are ready to act in a moment’s notice. The people who comprise these groups are often former military personnel who now work for the highest bidder.
They kidnap an American General who was scheduled to speak against privatization at a congressional committee meeting and murder a Senator who is also against privatization. Soon they will bomb malls, schools, and other public places in four cities around the country to inflict so much chaos, fear, and death that the American public will demand privatization since the U.S. military couldn't protect them. Swanson and Towne are called back to work due to the emergency of the general’s kidnapping.
The Marines sent in to rescue the general from the kidnappers are going to be ambushed and made to look incompetent. However, before the ambush happens a freak wind sweeps across the desert and slams the two rescue helicopters together. All of the Marines inside die, except for Swanson, who is thrown from his helicopter and survives. He continues on with his mission using his buddy Cornwell's high tech sniper rifle. Seeing how Swanson operates is pretty cool and probably the reason most people pick up the book.
I had hoped that the character of Shari Towne would end up being a kick ass naval officer, but she doesn't. Even the good guys refer to her as "the girl" at one point. The only women who is regularly part of the action or takes risks is playing for the bad guys and even she ends up crying in her hanky and running away with her tail between her legs in the end. She isn't even considered enough of a threat for the main bad guy to kill to ensure she doesn't talk. Had her character been a male, I'm thinking he would have been killed to tie up the loose ends. But I have to credit Coughlin for including women characters that at least do more than sleep with and then betray men as is often the case in military novels.
Kill Zone is a solid read if you’re looking for a military action book. There are high-stakes, bravery, lots of action scenes, and you feel like you're there with Swanson in enemy territory as he carries out his mission.
St. Martin's Paperbacks, December 2008