By Ekta R. Garg
December 26, 2018
Genre: Spy thriller
Release date: April 17, 2018
Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars
A CIA analyst finds himself in a conflict in the Middle East during a mission. As he does his best to dodge those with malicious intentions, he will have to draw on his instincts and his skills if he wants to get home safe and sound. Debut author David Ricciardi takes readers on a wild and implausible ride in the crazy spy thriller Warning Light.
Zac Miller works out of the CIA’s London office as an analyst. On a trip to Paris to visit a friend, he gets a call from his boss about an important mission that might get scrapped. The agent involved is possibly compromised, and the CIA wants to shut everything down before anyone gets hurt. Zac has spent enough time and energy on the mission to know how important it is, and he knows how crucial it could be to national security. He volunteers to join the mission in progress, and with a great deal of reluctance his boss agrees.
Boarding the plane for the mission is the last thing that goes right for Zac, however. The flight makes an emergency landing in Iran. There Zac gets accosted by security personnel and is separated from the other passengers. Soldiers take him to a secluded spot and demand to know what he knows about their country. Zac insists he’s just passing through, but no one listens.
He manages to escape but knows it won’t take long for the Iranians to catch up. As he eludes capture time and again, he formulates a plan. If he can just make it back to a Western country, he’ll be able to contact the London office and get help. He doesn’t like placing his bets on that big “if,” but it’s the only chance he has to stay alive and somehow complete the mission.
Author David Ricciardi presents Zac Miller in the opening pages of the book as a mild-mannered analyst just trying to survive. As the story progresses, however, Zac morphs into a combination of James Bond and Jason Bourne: resourceful and suave, regardless of the circumstances. While every spy thriller demands a certain suspension of disbelief, Ricciardi asks too much of his readers in this regard. The book takes Zac from the desert terrain of Iran to the open sea. He gets beaten, tortured, shot, drugged, dehydrated, and goes for extended periods of time without food, but he keeps going.
The expectation for readers to forgive even the wildest implausibility is only half the problem. The other half is pacing. In a book that comes in at 323 pages in hardback, less than 70 pages focus on other characters. In other words, readers spend more than 250 pages following Zac’s daring escapes, his clever antics, and his bravado as he navigates his way to London from Iran.
In the meantime, the other parts of the story are so underdeveloped that readers will forget “crucial” elements and experience a “huh?” moment at the big reveal toward the end. The nudge-nudge/wink-wink device of thrillers, when used appropriately, can leave readers grinning with delight. Here all it does is induce an eye roll, because readers don’t get to spend nearly enough time with other characters to enjoy the payoff.
Readers willing to commit to a thriller with the most incredulous situations and outcomes might enjoy this one. Otherwise I recommend readers Bypass Warning Light.