The drug war. Gun-running. An alarming fusion of the private sector with the government apparatus. Strange bedfellows. All of these are hot-button topics in politics at large and specifically in regards to foreign policy. As an action writer, I can testify first-hand that hot-button topics are what make our plots flow. Our curiosity makes us wonder, “What if X or Y were to happen? How would this go down?” We pick a topic or two, combine fact and speculation to come up with a narrative that entertains and, if the writer is worth their salt, makes the reader wonder which is which.

That is, of course, unless you’re Jack Murphy.

Murphy takes all four of those touchy subjects, gives each of them enough research to put a modern journalist to shame, and links them together through brutal, gruesome action in his sophomore print novel, Target Deck. The amount of action in this outing puts his first novel, Reflexive Fire, to shame, which anybody who read it would assure you that they would find the notion impossible.

The novel starts with a daring hostage rescue inside a drug lord’s compound and literally does not let up until the final third of the book…at which point, Murphy generously allows the reader to catch their breath long enough to prepare for the barrage of twists and action that await them in that final section. From relentless house-to-house fighting against cartel bad boys to sneak-and-peek ops that resemble real-life versions of certain stealth action franchises (including an appearance by technology I was unaware existed outside one of those franchises!) and beyond, Murphy again plays to his strengths as a former Ranger infantryman and Special Forces soldier. The authenticity is there in spades, and for the uninitiated, he even includes a glossary of military jargon.