If you have never read any of author Ronie Kendig’s books, then you are in for a real treat. She has coined the phrase Rapid-Fire Fiction and it sure is. Kendig writes military action and international intrigue stories and if you pick up one of her titles, then you better plan to clear your schedule because you won’t be able to stop until you reach the end.
The Tox Files is the newest series from this talented author and I believe it is her best yet! So far, the prequel novella The Warrior’s Seal (which is available for free on Kindle) and the first full length novel of this series Conspiracy of Silence have been released with the second title A Crown of Souls set for an October 2017 release.
Although you needn’t read the prequel in order to understand the plot of Conspiracy of Silence, I would recommend that you do so, because it introduces you to the main players and gives some background details which will only enhance your understanding throughout the series.
In both books, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team of black ops commandos are charged with highly sensitive missions to not only protect high level government officials, but they also find themselves tracking down information and hidden secrets behind Middle Eastern and biblical relics which are tied to plagues and directly impact their mission.
The Warrior’s Seal introduces us to Tox, so nicknamed because he is toxic to anyone who dares to get close to him, and his team; Cell the tech guru, Maangi the medic, Chiiji, Tox’s Nigerian conscience and Ram his second in command. While on the hunt for the Mace of Subjugation and also for those who kidnapped the American president and First Lady their mission crosses with that of Ram’s sister Tzivia and Dr. Cathey, archaeologists whose knowledge of the stolen artifact is crucial. They eventually find themselves in Syria trying to rescue the president and stop an ancient, deadly plague from being released on the world.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to novellas as I don’t usually feel the shorter length allows much in the way of character or plot development. However, this book is an exception to that rule using the entire 130 pages very effectively. Despite its’ brevity I really felt like I had read a full length novel not only because of the plot and characters development but also due to the high paced intensity in which it is told.
Conspiracy of Silence continues the story of Tox and his team. Due to the fallout from their past mission we find them living separate lives believing their leader dead and Tox wrestling with his perceived failures and the compromises he has made to protect the people he loves.
However, when a new threat emerges and the President’s Chief of Staff forces his hand, Tox must reach out to his old teammates to help him find and eliminate a deadly assassin who is part of a larger global conspiracy.
Despite the distrust and doubt that the team members still harbor towards their former Sergeant they agree to help. Once again, Tzivia and Dr. Cathey play important roles in the new mission. Tzivia’s archaeological dig in Saudi Arabia uncovers proof of a biblical Jewish encampment and also several censers mentioned in the Bible, directly referenced in Numbers 16. Hidden along with these is a leaf of the Aleppo Codex, the oldest “complete” Hebrew Bible in existence. When her site is invaded and the censers stolen, again a worldwide plague threatens to erupt. Adding to the mystery and the conspiracy of silence by Jewish leaders sworn to protect the remaining leafs of the Codex is whether markings of the text by a Templar Knight renders the whole book void.
Also, adding to the complexity of Tox’s mission are old family ties. His brother Galen just happens to be the current President and their relationship has been stormy ever since Galen stole his brother’s girlfriend and made her his wife. His brother’s sister-in-law was a young girl when her sister Brooke dated Tox, but after witnessing Brooke’s treatment of him, Haven swore to herself that she would love Cole Russell forever. When he appears back on the scene after being presumed dead and she finally gets the opportunity to clear Tox’s name, she uses it as leverage to be included on the mission as a deception expert. Although Cole agrees to this, he is unaware of her identity because he hasn’t seen Haven since she was a child and she now goes by another name.
While the plots are highly intense, quick paced and complex it is also the intricate web of relationships between the various characters in this series which keep the reader intrigued and on the edge of their seat. The high volume of players named throughout both stories sometimes make it hard to follow with who is who. Beyond that, the characters are written as fully human so although the reader is aware of who the heroes are, they are not typical, being fully flawed. Additionally some of the characters are morally ambiguous so it is not easy to tell who is friend and who is foe.
I love how the author weaves in pieces of history by including references to the Knights Templar, one in particular whose mission seems to mirror that of Cole Russell’s. Tying in biblical history and The Aleppo Codex also adds to the historical depth of the missions for the team. The author even shares references in her notes at the end of Conspiracy of Silence which encourage and allow the reader to do their own research on this historically important artifact.
Kendig’s apparent knowledge of the Middle East and the ins and outs of our government and military are impressive and certainly make her stories come alive. The way this knowledge is woven into the book is so thorough yet subtle and really places the reader on the missions along with the characters.
Although I don’t read many books in this particular genre I would still say that Kendig, as an author, is in a class by herself.