The Warriors

  • Tom Young
  • G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  • 336 pp.
  • Reviewed by Arthur Kerns
  • July 16, 2013

In this fourth military-action thriller by a U.S. Air Force pilot, a shipment of heroin by a Serbian war criminal rekindles sectarian strife in the Balkans.

Author Tom Young’s new novel, The Warriors, will appeal to fans of military action thrillers. The author has already established himself in this genre, and the fourth in his series proves he is still on track. Young is a U.S. Air Force pilot who flew in Afghanistan. During the Balkan War in the 1990s he delivered food and medicine by C-130 to victims of that conflict. He certainly knows what he is writing about.

This novel again features protagonists Lt. Colonel Michael Parsons and his sidekick, Sergeant Major Sophia Gold. They’re serving in Kyrgyzstan, a country across the border from Afghanistan. An incoming Afghan military plane crashes on the runway of the airbase where Parsons is assigned as the safety officer. On inspection, he finds a cache of heroin hidden in the cargo hold. The investigation leads to Sarajevo, Serbia, where Parsons and Gold learn that illegal drugs are bankrolling a scheme by a Serbian war criminal turned arms dealer. This true believer in ethnic purity hates non-Christians and the Western powers for interfering in the Bosnian conflict. He plans to reignite an ethnic war in the former Yugoslavia and cleanse his country of Muslims. Parsons and Gold set out to thwart the plot.

The Warriors begins with a fatal airplane crash, but I didn’t become engrossed until the third chapter, which deals with an airplane crash investigation, a topic unfamiliar to me. Still, the author makes the scene a fascinating read. The story line will please fans of military procedurals, especially those who are familiar with military aviation, but it is equally entertaining for those who don’t have an Air Force background. I thoroughly enjoyed the flight scenes, the nomenclature and jargon used by aviators, and learning about flight-crew dynamics. The description of a plane descending into a controlled crash was fascinating.

The novel has a number of firefights consistent with action thrillers. Here again, aficionados will appreciate the descriptions of the various military procedures and hardware. The scene of human carnage after a car bomb has exploded in a crowd of innocent civilians is something that unfortunately will come to me each time a similar incident appears in the news.

Since Young’s characters, Parsons and Gold, appear in all the books in this series, their depiction is important in carrying the action. Parsons maintains a stoic presence, for which action heroes are noted, but here Sophia Gold, an intellectual who reads John Locke, comes across as the stronger character who moves the story along. True, toward the middle, Parson’s remembrance of his experiences during the Balkan conflict 20 years before drives the arc of action toward final resolution, but for the most part he remains a cipher. The arch-villain is presented as a particular nasty individual, but not quite a three-dimensional character. Perhaps it’s his single-minded obsession to purify his Serbia that gets in the way of showing any human quirks or tics. It’s the character of his second-in-command, Stefan, a cold-blooded sniper who kills innocents, whom we see change over time. He questions his leader, shows regret for his actions and yet stays the course of evil to the end.

The author’s descriptions of the countryside of Serbia and Bosnia touch on the poetic. He relates the history of the region and how events occurring hundreds of years and generations ago still affect the modern world. The central theme of his novel is presented most memorably when Sophia Gold is flying 10,000 feet above Bosnia and looks down at the land below and thinks of the tragedy that befell its people in the 1990s. She finds it disturbing that mutual hate among humans can lie dormant for years and then explode. She muses, “What was the half-time of hate? Generations, apparently.”

Part of Tom Young’s attraction for readers is his sense of history and ability to explain the complicated origins of past conflicts. He takes us back to the 1990s conflict between Muslims and Christians in Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia. While Western nations dithered on the sidelines debating whether the mass murders being conducted should legally be classified as massacres, the Serbian militias were free to conduct genocide of their Muslim neighbors. The author, through his characters, reveals his strong sense of injustice over this outrage that was “never to happen again” after the lessons of the Holocaust.

As all good action thrillers do, The Warriors ends with a satisfying bang-up climax. Certainly fans of Tom Young couldn’t ask for more.

Arthur Kerns is a retired FBI special agent and is past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. In March 2013 Diversion Books Inc. published his espionage thriller The Riviera Contract.

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