Pete Nealen hits his stride with “Kill Yuan,” taking the readers to the South Pacific with private security contractors engaging in the very dubious (and illegal) endeavor of removing a rogue Chinese military officer-turned-pirate. Dan Tackett is a former Marine who is down on his luck, and with two kids to take care of as a single parent, he needs the scratch that comes along with a high-risk contract. If only he knew what he was getting into….

Kill Yuan is a much-needed diversion from most of the books currently coming out in the action-adventure genre. You know the type: ex-Navy SEAL wages a one-man war against some dodgy Arabs with a backpack nuke while teamed up with a saucy red-headed FBI agent. Nealen chooses a chain of islands in the Pacific instead of the desert or streets of Washington D.C., crafting a plot that is interesting, fresh, and maybe not that far removed from what our reality could look like a few years down the road. Dan is teamed up with a few women on his team, but once again, Pete eschews the cheap heat of a simplistic romance and tells a story about women at war, which is somewhat less than politically correct.

The other thing I appreciated about this novel was how it bridged the new school and the old school. The geopolitical dynamics present in “Kill Yuan” are contemporary, but the weapons and tactics utilized by the private military contractors are realistically old school. There really isn’t any such thing as “advanced” infantry tactics, but the book gets really interesting about halfway through when Dan’s team is hung out to dry. Abandoned behind enemy lines with no support or logistics, Dan turns to guerrilla warfare. The American military rarely, if ever, utilizes tactics like infiltration, meaning to sneak right up on top of the enemy to reduce their stand-off capabilities. For the reader looking for something new, and accurate, Pete’s take on small-unit tactics will be right up your alley.

“Kill Yuan” culminates in a three-way battle that will keep you guessing right up until the final pages. This is a novel you won’t want to miss.