Stephen Mertz and Arthur Moore authored the eighth M.I.A. Hunter installment Escape from Nicaragua. The duo continue their collaboration with this ninth volume entitled Invasion U.S.S.R. It was published by Jove in 1988 and is the second series installment to feature the three “hunters” performing clandestine work for the U.S. Government.
Senator Harler, who was introduced in the seventh novel, Saigon Slaughter, now orchestrates missions for the three hunters and has a new assignment for leader Mark Stone. A journalist named Lee Daniels is being held captive in Russia. After years of receiving hot leads from his C.I.A. resource, the government asked Daniels to break into a laboratory to steal important documents. Why the C.I.A., who primarily focuses on covert operations, would ask a newspaper reporter to perform this task isn't fully explained. Regardless, it's a convenient way to insert three bad-ass characters into Russia to ride tall and shoot straight.
Unlike other series installments, Invasion U.S.S.R. is more of an investigation resembling a hardboiled private-eye case as Stone tracks the whereabouts of Daniels. It follows tried and true literary trends as the heroic trio interviews locals (hood criminals) and fraternizes in bars in a race to develop clues. These leads are conventional pathways to low-brow establishments like strip clubs, casinos and brothels. The authors utilize these false solutions to discourage the trio, often leading to a dead-end only to recycle the hunt for information again. As that portion of the narrative developed, readers check-in with Daniels periodically as he's moved from jail to jail as political bait.
What I really loved about this story was the fact that the heroes lose quite a bit. This isn't a typical “storm the jungles and find the bamboo cage”. The fact that Stone and his fighting unit can't strong-arm their way to liberation was a welcome change. In addition, the team are primarily placed in an urban setting for the first time. It was enjoyable to see the team run through apartment complexes and buildings. In a surprising moment, the trio even steals bicycles and outpedal their pursuers! It's this sort of thing that really sets the novel apart from prior installments.
Invasion U.S.S.R. is a fun men's action-adventure novel that continues the series' trend of locating and liberating prisoners. While slower than prior installments, the authors take the team out of their jungle element and mix-up the action in favor of more procedural investigation. While prior books may have been a quick cold beer, Invasion U.S.S.R. is a fine wine that needs to be digested slowly to enjoy all the flavor.
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