Standard III – Cult of Death is the third installment in the suspense/thriller series featuring MI6 agent William Shanahan and operative Jack Gawain. It picks up where Standard II leaves off, with Jack Gawain and his new sweetheart Lucretia Carcosa enjoying a hiatus in Greenwich Village. Only the CIA have determined their whereabouts and bring them in for a briefing. They are given the option of deploying to Iraq in a search-and-destroy mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Under threat of prosecuting Lucretia as the Black Queen of the Citadel, the couple reluctantly agree.
On the European front, William Shanahan’s turbulent marriage with Morgana Mc Laren results in his enrollment in Operation Death Cult. He is teamed with MI6 assassin Jessica Anderson and deployed to Iraq in an investigation of reported chemical weapons being stockpiled by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham). They are assigned to work alongside Glenn Frantz and Debbie Cantor, American expatriates working for the Mossad. Shanahan and Frantz pose as American Muslims volunteering to join the jihadist forces in the region. Debbie and Jessica work undercover beneath Islamic veils, negotiating the misogynistic society in trying to infiltrate the infrastructure. It is not long before Jack and Lucretia make contact, and it results in a powerhouse team going head-to-head with the vanguard of a global caliphate.
Once again the focus is the heart and soul of Western civilization as New York, London and Tel Aviv are the targets of ISIS’ biological attack. Grand Ayatollah Qom Diabolus has assembled a death squad of foreign mercenaries who have been charged with masterminding the terror operation. Lucretia counters by reuniting the members of her disbanded Citadel in taking on the Hammer of Allah. Yet the women are as much in danger of death as their male counterparts, who are faced with the possibility of discovery and a grisly execution at every corner.
The series continues to explore the geopolitical ramifications of mainstream issues as the United States remains the target of extremists determined to undermine the core of Western civilization. We see how the United Kingdom is drawn into these conflicts as America’s most important ally. Israel becomes the ultimate objective as the terrorists are sworn to capturing Jerusalem and annihilating the Jewish state. There is also the narrative discussing the conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims as well as the Kurdish tribes who populate the region defining Syria and Iraq as well as neighboring Iran. The agents deal with the problem of interacting between the factions while not alienating any of the parties involved. Only they, like the native population, realize that to get caught on the wrong side can result in sudden death.
The precarious partnership between Shanahan and Gawain is rekindled as they realize how effective they are as a team. Yet they are forced to make room for Glenn, who fits somewhere in between by-the-book Shanahan and the chaotic Gawain. This is mirrored by their female counterparts as the ruthless Lucretia and the volatile Jessica find balance in the presence of the cerebral, calculating Debbie. Both threesomes join forces in an all-out effort to end the extremist threat before it can paralyze the world entire.
This is a non-stop rollercoaster ride careening out of tomorrow’s headlines. For suspense fans and thriller fans alike, Standard III – Cult of Death is one you won’t forget.