Former British SAS agent Nick Stone sets his sights on al-Qaida in his fifth adventure (after Last Light), a search-and-capture mission weighed down by excessive detail and a numbing lack of action. Stone, now working for a special antiterrorist U.S. strike team, is assigned to the south of France to choke off al-Qaida’s money line. Stone has taken the job reluctantly. He wants to retire, but the CIA has promised him U.S. citizenship and a new life with the woman he loves if he completes the task. On arrival in Cannes, Stone hooks up with two Egyptian sidekicks, and the trio begin tracking down the so-called hawalla, the secret network of underground bankers who finance terrorist operations and compensate the families of those who die in the cause. Specifically, Stone’s job is to kidnap three of the bankers and whisk them to a U.S. warship just off the French coast, where they will be interrogated and forced to reveal the origin and destination of their money. As is his custom, Stone takes the beating of his life, but perseveres in the face of overwhelming odds.
McNab, a British special forces member for more than a decade, is at his best when the action gets hairy, as it finally does toward the end. Too much of his latest, however, is spent following Stone through the mundane details of mission preparation-staking out locations, following suspects, ruminating about possible scenarios. Instead of biting their nails, readers will be staring at them absently, bored by the colorless plot.