Fort Myers Florida Weekly

Almost down for the count, Kirk McGarvey rebounds to outdo the bad guys


 Flash Points, by David Hagberg. Forge, 320 pages. Hardcover, $25.99.

Flash Points, by David Hagberg. Forge, 320 pages. Hardcover, $25.99.

This electrifying thriller continues the battle between David Hagberg’s continuing hero, Kirk McGarvey, and the shrewd, highly skilled freelance assassin introduced in “Tower Down” (reviewed in these pages). Let’s call that man, who has several identities, Kamal. He has roots in Saudi Arabia, but easily blends into Western environments. For sale to the highest bidder, he has his own agenda.

At the top of Kamal’s list is the murder of Mac, his nemesis. Not only must he cleanse the world of this CIA operative and former director, Kamal needs to see Mac suffer, and maybe Mac’s girlfriend as well. Mac had foiled Kamal’s plan to bring down a second Manhattan skyscraper in “Tower Down.”

However, what’s making Kamal a very wealthy man is his agreement to put Mac out of the way for other reasons. Groups with opposing attitudes toward the new U.S. president want Mac out of the way because he is the person most likely to detect and foil their plans.

The group wishing to discredit the commander-in-chief is bankrolling a series of terrorist catastrophes meant to undermine the stature of the inexperienced, ill-equipped president. He will, so goes the scheme, inevitably blunder in ways that will make his replacement inevitable. This group’s leaders have put Kamal on their payroll.



The cadre that supports the president wishes to use similar schemes to opposite ends. They will be manipulating events to make him look good; not only will the outcome assure solidifying his base, but also expanding it.

“Flash Points” opens with an explosion meant to destroy Mac’s car and him with it. Although it was planned by Kamal, a hireling’s misplacement of the explosive material lessens the impact. Nonetheless, Mac loses a leg. The CIA leadership thinks it best for him to recuperate in secret and for the word to get out that he has been killed.

While Mac gets used to his peg leg and recovers from other wounds, he participates in the planning that will draw out the crafty Kamal.



The author alternates the center of consciousness so that readers switch back and forth between following Kamal’s thoughts, emotions and actions and following Mac’s. The tradecraft and courage of each is well displayed, as is their sharp contrast in values. Suspense builds higher and higher as the inevitable confrontation draws closer and closer.

One major difference between these sections is that, since Kamal is a lone wolf with no meaningful attachments, his character is isolated from normal human relationships. The sections that follow Mac are alive with his memories of his late wife and daughter, his love for girlfriend and co-worker, Pete, and his care for and camaraderie with several friends who are, in most cases, partners in the business of defending their nation.

Many of his fans have noted that Mr. Hagberg’s novels are fresher than yesterday’s news. He seems to anticipate near-future events and build premises on suppositions that come true before his books hit the marketplace. Of course, the president characterized in “Flash Points” is a stand-in for our current president — and he’s a fine imitation.

Mr. Hagberg’s descriptions of how the CIA works, how missions are designed and carried out, and the physical dimensions of his vivid characterizations contribute greatly to reader appeal. While it might seem superfluous for the author to inventory Kamal’s wardrobe so many times, it becomes clear that this vain killer’s concern for his appearance is connected to his disguise of normality, his need to fit in. He is always playing a part. Choosing the outfit is part of the tradecraft; but beyond this, Kamal enjoys looking good and spending his money with taste.

To put it more plainly: David Hagberg is a man of many words, but he does not waste them. This is another fine political thriller from an acknowledged master.

About the author

David Hagberg is a former U.S. Air Force cryptographer who has traveled extensively in Europe, the Arctic and the Caribbean. He speaks frequently at CIA functions. Mr. Hagberg has published more than 70 novels of suspense, many of them bestsellers. These include “Allah’s Scorpion,” “Dance with the Dragon” and “The Expediter.” He makes his home in Sarasota and, with his wife, enjoys sailing the west coast of the state and the Florida Keys.

— Phil Jason, Ph. D., United States Naval Academy professor emeritus of English, is a poet, critic and freelance writer with 20 books to his credit, including several studies of war literature and a creative writing text.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *