Official Thrillerfix Review by Jason Kasper
29 June 2018
Operator Down opens with the violent compromise of a routine surveillance mission, resulting in the hopeless capture of two Mossad agents in Africa. And then the story really gets started. Author Brad Taylor, a career special operations veteran and former Delta Force squadron commander, certainly didn’t have to lack any real-world inspiration for his work.
Nor does he have any lack of writing experience with 11 previous bestselling thrillers to his name. As I read the opening chapters of Operator Down at an unusually breakneck pace, I realized very quickly that the merger of his two careers continues to pay off with spectacular effect.
What makes this book great isn’t the action scenes, swoopy technology, vivid locations, or the race against time. A lot of today’s great authors deliver on those elements.
But what distinguishes Taylor’s writing for me is his ability to take any scene, from static conversation to climactic battle, and turn it into a symphony of effortless page-turning infused with humor, subtleties of dialogue, and deep character identity. And that, more than anything else in his stories, is a mark of his hard-earned mastery.
“I spent a few years in Army special operations units and often find myself inwardly—or outwardly—groaning at fictional portrayals of combat and the people who participate in it for a living. In Operator Down, I found the authenticity of the military characters to be pitch-perfect…”
To be fair, I read Operator Down with a critical eye from the standpoint of a veteran. While my military career was not nearly as long or distinguished as Brad Taylor’s, I spent a few years in Army special operations units and often find myself inwardly—or outwardly—groaning at fictional portrayals of combat and the people who participate in it for a living.
In Operator Down, I found the authenticity of the military characters to be pitch-perfect in terms of dialogue, relationships, and approaches to problem-solving in environments ranging from routine to chaotic. But make no mistake, the book was no lock step, unimaginative military thriller: in a major supporting character, and to a lesser extent the protagonist himself, Taylor has infused elements of ethereal perception bordering on supernatural.
But even this unique twist was applied with enough subtlety and sleight of hand to avoid straining the reader’s credulity, and in the end I found its infusion into the story to strengthen rather than distract. For a thriller author, that’s a tough move to pull off. At this point in his writing career, Brad Taylor has built up enough credibility to go on literary cruise control if he chose to.
Instead, he continues to challenge himself by crafting increasingly complex and eminently readable works that few of his peers, in my opinion, can compete with. That’s not to say he’s got the market cornered on every element. If you want the best jaw-smashing martial arts realism that money can buy, I’d recommend Barry Eisler.
If you want a beautiful blend of prose mixed with action, Daniel Silva is tough to beat. But for a smooth, thrilling read of tactical operations, gunplay, and all the supporting activities that precede such events in real life operations, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of anything with Brad Taylor stamped to the cover.
If you so much as finish the first few chapters of Operator Down, I’ll bet you a beer that you’ll be anxiously waiting for the release of his next book as well. But you’re going to have to stand behind me, because I’ll be first in line.