The Coldest Warrior by Paul Vidich #BookReview #BlogTour

The new novel by acclaimed espionage author Paul Vidich explores the dark side of intelligence, when a CIA officer delves into a cold case from the 1950s—with fatal consequences.
In 1953, at the end of the Korean War, Dr. Charles Wilson, an Army bio-weapons scientist, died when he “jumped or fell” from the ninth floor of a Washington hotel. As his wife and children grieve, the details of his death remain buried for twenty-two years.

With the release of the Rockefeller Commission report on illegal CIA activities in 1975, LSD is linked to Wilson’s death, and suddenly the Wilson case becomes news again. Wilson’s family and the press are demanding answers, suspecting the CIA of foul play, and men in the CIA, FBI, and White House conspire to make sure the truth doesn’t get out.

Enter agent Jack Gabriel, an old friend of the Wilson family who is instructed by the CIA director to find out what really happened to Wilson. It’s Gabriel’s last mission before he retires from the agency, and his most perilous as he finds a continuing cover-up that reaches to the highest levels of government.  Key witnesses connected to the case die from suspicious causes, and Gabriel realizes that the closer he gets to the truth, the more he puts himself and his family at risk.

Following in the footsteps of spy fiction greats such as Graham Green, John Le CarrĂ©, and Alan Furst, Paul Vidich presents a tale—based on the unbelievable true story told in Netflix’s Wormwood—that doesn’t shy away from the true darkness in the shadows of espionage.  Men who work in covert operations inevitably bring some of that darkness into themselves, suffering the moral hazards of a line of work that sanctions lying, deceit, and murder.

It's such a pleasure to be opening the blog tour for The Coldest Warrior today. Many thanks to Paul Vidich, No Exit Press and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Espionage thrillers probably work best when they feel grounded in the truth and The Coldest Warrior is most definitely that; Paul Vidich has fictionalised and expanded upon a family tragedy and explains in the preface that his uncle, Frank Olsen died in 1953 when he "jumped or fell" to his death from his room on the thirteenth floor of the Statler Hotel in New York City. The prologue describes how CIA scientist. Dr Charles Wilson comes to be in a Washington hotel room, viewed via a two-way mirror, with his fate already sealed. Like his real-life counterpart, his death is explained away as an unfortunate accident or the choice of a depressed man. His murder is inevitable but still chilling - this is a ruthless insider hit and though not described in graphic detail, it certainly sets the scene for what proves to be a tense and disturbing read.
Twenty-two years later, the CIA is under scrutiny, with public support for the agency suffering after a number of distressing allegations and revelations. When Charles Wilson's name is mentioned during the Rockefeller Commission, the White House summons the director of Central Intelligence, nervous that more dark secrets are going to be aired. With an election looming, the Presidency will seek to distance itself from the scandals of the CIA and in an effort to protect the Agency, the director asks Jack Gabriel to look into Wilson's death. Gabriel is a seasoned agent who is ready to leave the CIA but persuaded to stay on in the short term; his friendship with Wilson and the debt he feels he owes the man and his family meaning he cannot refuse the director's request, despite knowing that his decision will affect his own family.
The impact on family life that comes from working in intelligence is explored throughout the book, most notably through Gabriel's interactions with his wife, Claire and teenage daughter, Sara. His marriage has endured difficult periods and extended separations due to his job but this latest development threatens all that they have worked for. Gabriel and Claire have faced danger before, especially during his posting in Vietnam but now it is his strained relationship with Sara which becomes particularly painful; the usual strains of a  father coming to terms with his daughter being on the cusp of adulthood and finding her own way in the world is further complicated by his role and the secrets he has kept from her. The ultimate consequence of working within intelligence is felt, of course, by the Wilson family who have lived under the shadow of Charles' death for decades. The novel asks the troubling questions as to whether knowing the truth as to what really happened in that hotel room would allow them to feel some sort of closure or would just serve to open up new wounds.
Throughout The Coldest Warrior, the sense of time and place is vividly realised and the secretive world of intelligence work during the paranoid Cold War years becomes especially unsettling when the adversaries come from within the same organisation. The moral ambiguities of the actions of many of the characters - Gabriel included - is a stark reminder that atrocities are perpetrated by those who protect a nation's interests and secrets. Whether those acts are defensible will be determined by each person's own beliefs but I found this quote to be particularly powerful,

'Our current history is written with our official denials, and with each denial comes a truth, which defeats the truth. Of course, you'd never get anyone to admit that, but there it is. We've used language cleverly and systematically to make it hard for anyone to say there it is, there's the truth.'

This tautly paced, intricately plotted novel is thoroughly engaging throughout but becomes utterly irresistible during the final chapters when the sinister sense of tension which steadily escalates during the course of the novel reaches its heart-stopping climax. The nail-biting drama that plays out in the final third of The Coldest Warrior is the icing on the cake of this first-rate thriller. Suspenseful, exciting and authentic, I loved it.

The Coldest Warrior is published by No Exit Press, it is available now as an ebook and will be out in paperback on 27th February 2020. Purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Paul Vidich has had a distinguished career in music and media. Most recently, he served as Special Advisor to AOL and was Executive Vice President at the Warner Music Group, in charge of technology and global strategy. He serves on the Board of Directors of Poets & Writers and The New School for Social Research. A founder and publisher of the Storyville App, Vidich is also an award-winning author of short fiction. His novels, An Honorable Man, The Good Assassin and The Coldest Warrior, are available from No Exit Press.


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