by Roger Zotti
Jeffrey S. Stephens says what prompted him to write his latest work, “Targets of Opportunity,” was “a real life clandestine operative. I can’t say much more than that, but I am grateful to those anonymous men and women who work in the service of keeping our country safe.” A smart thriller, “Targets of Opportunity” brings back CIA agent Jordan Sandor, who this time is trying “to frustrate a planned terrorist attack on our shores that will have catastrophic effects when unleashed. “
What Jeffrey hopes readers will take away from “Targets of Opportunity,” which is the sequel to “Targets of Deception,” is heroism. “It comes in many forms,” Jeffrey says. “But I believe the purest type comes in the act of doing the right thing, the brave thing, even when your actions will never be known or acknowledged. Humphrey Bogart at the end of ‘Casablanca’ comes to mind. In that iconic last scene he gives up the woman he loves for the good of a greater cause.” He adds that when “a man acts for motives beyond his selfish instincts, for things he holds as most important to him, that is when we are really at our best.”
Jeffrey resides in Greenwich, Connecticut, and has been writing “for as long as I can remember.” He credits J.D. Salinger with “making me want to become a writer when he introduced me to Holden Caulfield.” From Ernest Hemingway he learned that “less is more, and that the heart and soul of a human being is about how one deals with the brutal truth of life and mortality, not about the material things that surround us.” Citing Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” Jeffrey asserts, “It invites you into the lives of his melancholy and sometimes pathetic band of travelers that reaches me in ways modern writers do not.”
In “Targets of Opportunity,” we witness Sandor’s controlled anger and strength when he roughs up Times reporter Frank Donaldson. The brash newsman’s piece—which Sandor correctly believes is “highly inflammatory”— was about Sandor’s recent mission, “a United States incursion into North Korea.” Shoving the terrified reporter against the wall, Sandor intones, “If you print anything that screws up the exchange of my men [Bergenn and Raabe]…you’ll answer to me.” Then he storms out of the Times’ office and enters the lobby, “a smile on his face…”
Sandor is also a man of deep feeling. After a horrific terrorist attack on a commercial jet, “he imagined the stunned passengers as the aircraft was torn apart and began its accelerating dive into the Caribbean. How long had people remained conscious? … He was not able to shake the image of their last chaotic moments.”
Jeffrey Stephens’ fluidly written novel, with its short chapters, muscular prose, and realistic dialogue, achieves an action rhythm, a breathlessness, which propels the storyline forward from the opening page. The heroic, quick thinking Jordan Sandor is someone who risks life and limb to do the right thing. Move over, Jack Reacher.