An edge of your seat military action novel awaits you in HALO by D.J. Stephens.
After completing his training as an Airborne Ranger, young Jeffrey Barkil is recruited by the CIA to run secret missions in Southeast Asia between 1958 and 1961. Now a hired assassin--even though officially he and his Operations don't exist--Jeff must come to terms with his new role and fight to stay alive. With each new mission, the stakes rise and the danger increases. When asked to lead a team into Muong Nhie to capture a Chinese General, Jeff is determined that everyone will make it home!
Just like D. J. Stephens's book, Death Rider--which we reviewed here--HALO is filled with action. Stephens is a master when it comes to creating an edge of your seat story. But unlike Death Rider, I never felt I knew who Jeff Barkil was and why he did what he did. There is little backstory and so few pages dedicated to Jeff's down time that I only saw him as this killing machine. I never really knew what motivated him to hook up with the CIA and be so good at his job that he garnered the name "Death Dealer".
Stephens's military knowledge and experience is obvious from the outset and draws the reader into the story immediately. The reader feels the spider crawling up Jeff's legs, holds her breathe when Jeff gets ready to pull the trigger, and gets out of breath as Jeff races toward the Landing Zone. Keeping in mind that I have read very few military novels, the descriptions of what happened each time Jeff landed into his Drop Zone--or missed it--seemed a bit redundant after a while.
The late introduction of Sergeant Riley, who befriends Jeff then disappears from the scene and is never heard from again is a bit annoying, but the relationship between Jeff and Kelly and the dramatic scene between them at the end is definitely the stuff good books are made of.
Overall, I enjoyed HALO and would like to see Jeff back in action again. If you're looking for a book filled with military action, especially surrounding the early Vietnam War years, you'll want to read HALO.