Few authors in the techno-thriller genre have matched – and none have surpassed – Larry Bond’s ability to deliver white-knuckle suspense and surprises. The phrase “torn from today’s headlines” is a cliché, but Bond’s latest novel, Exit Plan is frighteningly topical. The third novel in the Jerry Mitchell series, Exit Plan provides enough background information from the previous two novels to allow it to be read as a stand-alone novel.
The story begins with an accident at an Iranian uranium enrichment facility, part of that country’s atomic weapons program. It is the latest setback in Iran’s goal to develop its own nuclear arsenal and thus cement its hegemony in the region. As the scientists in the facility go back to the drawing board, the general in charge of the program secretly colludes with the program’s senior agent from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (VEVAK) in a high-stakes plot. Instead of accepting this latest failure and write off the years of development and testing, the two intend to write off the entire facility, not in a costly budgetary move, but by making it a sacrificial pawn in war! The key is convincing the world – specifically Israel and the United States – that instead of being years, if not decades, from having nuclear weapons, Iran is within days of attaining that goal. The purpose is to deliberately goad Israel into launching a pre-emptive air strike on the facility. As they see it, this will cause Iran to still achieve its strategic goal of regional hegemony because most of the Muslim world will unite with Iran against Israel and the United States. That this might also set the stage for World War III is a risk they’re willing to accept.
Caught in the middle is Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Mitchell, now the executive officer of the submarine USS Michigan. He is a last-minute addition to a SEAL team tasked with extracting out of Iran a pair of Iranian nationals from the failed nuclear facility. Horrified by their country’s nuclear weapons program and the consequences they see, this husband and wife team has secretly arranged to defect and publicize to the world the vital information about the program in their possession.
An accident at the beginning of the mission that destroys the SEALs’ minisub shortly before the team reaches the rendezvous site sets the stage for the rapidly escalating multi-level race against time crisis that follows.
As Mitchell, the SEAL team, and the Iranian couple fight to stay one step ahead of the ever-increasing Iranian security forces determined to capture them, the president of the United States and his senior advisers fight to stop an Israeli air strike that has the backing of Saudi Arabia.
All of Bond’s storytelling strengths are here in full force. Tight plot with one surprising twist after another, well-rounded characters, illuminating details that add depth to the story – all this and a thrilling conclusion make this book a compelling read impossible to put down.