MONDAY NIGHT JIHAD
Jason Elam and Steve Yohn
Tyndale House Publishers
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Jason Elam, a 15-year NFL veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion place kicker for the Denver Broncos, has teamed up with Steve Yohn, director of adult ministries at Fellowship Community Church, to pen a thriller that intertwines the professional sports world with terrorists and spy intrigue. With a storyline that feels all too true to life, they successfully engage both the head and the heart as they offer readers, male and female, a fast-paced and plausible plot.
These first-time authors provide not only an insiders' look into the world of professional sports, but another more troubling view into the minds of would-be terrorists and their subterfuge. The story opens with a bang in 1991, in Adhamiya, Baghdad, Iraq, where Hakeem Qasim witnesses a brutal bombing attack on his family. Losing his home and loved ones in one fell swoop, Hakeem grows up despising the United States and vows to have his revenge.
Fast forward to 2003 --- Operation Enduring Freedom, Bagram Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan --- where second lieutenant Riley Covington is just finishing up a special-ops mission and soon returning stateside to jumpstart his second career as a PFL linebacker for the Colorado Mustangs. With a purple heart and a silver star to his credit, Riley was a hero in everyone's eyes. Still, he never dreamed how short-lived his athletic stint would be until terrorists hit the stadium where one of his closest football friends, Sal Ricci, was killed in the aftermath of one of the attacks.
In short order, Riley becomes drawn into the government's search team to try to circumvent further terrorist bombings throughout major cites in the U.S. At first unwillingly, then later with determined resolve, he joins forces with former fellow AFSOC soldier Scott Ross, now a top communication analyst at the counterterrorism division (CTD) of Homeland Security. With a bevy of transcontinental travel, Riley and other special-ops forces attempt to ferret out the terrorists on their own land. All the while, Khadi Faroughi, a CTD agent, begins to steal his heart.
During one point in the mission, Riley is kidnapped and finds himself facing a familiar, once-friendly face. His utter disgust becomes a mixture of anger and pity as he attempts to understand the lengths to which his old friend will go to mete out justice at the expense of innocent lives. From one adrenaline-surging moment to the next, Riley and his cohorts try to stay ahead of the terrorists' next targeted bombings, taking them once again into the heart of the U.S. With so many people already dead, Riley grows continually more anxious to mentally gauge (and guess) where they will strike next. Having felt the hit from this particular group already, the U.S. team works unceasingly to prevent another widespread attack.
Readers will find themselves reliving September 11, 2001 as they absorb the deeper implications of this fine debut novel. Just as the characters find no opportunity to let their guard down, Elam and Yohn’s audiences will feel similar pulls to stepping up their own political intelligence quotient.
--- Reviewed by Michele Howe
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