3 out of 4 stars
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The Date Farm by Jack Winnick is an action thriller based on terrorist acts committed by Islamic extremists. On a Saturday evening in Beverly Hills, ten black-clad terrorists enter a shopping mall hosting an after-hours rave for young people. After spreading out across multiple levels, they set off gas grenades to incapacitate and disorient the crowds. Shortly after, they begin firing at people using automatic weapons. Following five minutes of carnage, they all use pistols to commit suicide. The death toll starts at forty-eight confirmed dead. Newlyweds Uri Levin, from Israel's Mossad, and his FBI wife Lara, now an "Adjunct Agent" for Mossad, are on vacation in Ohio with Lara's family when they get the call about the shopping mall massacre. They jump on a flight to join the investigation. By the time they arrive, the death toll has risen to fifty-eight, with one hundred and twenty-five wounded, not counting the ten terrorists...
Winnick's plot moves quickly, which is essential in an action thriller. The first terrorist attack occurs right at the start of the book, after which Uri and Lara receive the news and quickly arrive in Los Angeles to visit the scene. The story never lags, always moving forward at speed. There are some quieter parts during periods of travel and transport but Winnick deals with these deftly, avoiding unnecessary details about the mundane. These occasional "breathers" help to break up the action nicely.
Winnick describes his incidental characters simply, letting their behaviour flesh them out as the story progresses. A brief physical description is the only interruption to the story. Also, he reveals most of the key plot points as they happen, without unnecessary foreshadowing. This keeps things interesting for the reader with a number of twists and surprises. Though we do spend some time with the terrorists, we often only learn of new developments as they occur.
The negatives in The Date Farm are all minor. There are several typographical errors, including the unnecessary hyphenation of words such as "news-people" and "night-stand". Incorrect words are occasionally used, such as "repel" for "rappel", "sites" for "sights", and "accommodated" for "acclimatised". Also, I thought one piece of description: "a shower of blood and what used to be brains" would be stronger as simply "a shower of blood and brains". Further, two of the Homeland Security team leaders are named Miles Trowbridge and Mike Toghiani. Though secondary characters, it is more difficult to keep them separate - initially, at least - when both have the initials M.T.
Overall, The Date Farm is a solid, compelling action thriller which I read in just two days. The fast-paced plot has plenty of twists to keep action fans on their toes. Anyone with an interest in terrorism and the current political climate in the Middle East would enjoy this book. It does contain strong violence, however, not suited to those who find shootings and bombings especially disturbing. Without the minor errors I mentioned, it would be a 4-star book. Currently, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars.
The Date Farm
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