When a string of horrific terrorist attacks plagues the Western world during the holiday season, the broader markets fall into a tailspin. The attacks are being coordinated by a shadowy former Iraqi commando who has disappeared into Europe’s underground. The United States government has an asset who can turn the Iraqi against his masters: James Reece, the most-wanted domestic terrorist alive.
After avenging the deaths of his family and team members, Reece emerges deep in the wilds of Mozambique, protected by the family of his estranged best friend and former SEAL Team member. When a series of events uncovers his whereabouts, the CIA recruits him, using a Presidential pardon for Reece and immunity for the friends who helped him in his mission of vengeance.
Now a reluctant tool of the United States government, Reece travels the globe, targeting terrorist leaders and unraveling a geopolitical conspiracy that exposes a traitorous CIA officer and uncovers a sinister assassination plot with worldwide repercussions.
A high-intensity roller-coaster ride, True Believer explodes with action and authenticity that cements Jack Carr as the new leader in political thrillers.
About the Author
Jack Carr is an author and former Navy SEAL. He lives with his wife and three children in Park City, Utah. He is the author of The Terminal List and True Believer. Visit him at OfficialJackCarr.com and follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @JackCarrUSA.
Read an Excerpt
Aboard the Bitter Harvest
THERE’S A REASON THAT recreational sailors don’t cross the Atlantic as winter advances from the north: it’s a rough ride. Lieutenant Commander James Reece found some amusement in the fact that as a naval officer he had minimal experience actually sailing a boat on the open water. The bad news was that the rough seas made the crossing both dangerous and physically exhausting. The good news was that the strong winds cut considerable time off the trip and lessened his chances of discovery. Within a few days of leaving Fishers Island, off the coast of Connecticut, Reece was getting the hang of sailing the forty-eight-foot Beneteau Oceanis, christened Bitter Harvest by the family from whom he had liberated it, and the tasks of managing the yacht had become more or less routine. The boat’s AIS Transponder had been turned off by its owners to make him harder to find, if in fact anyone was looking for him in the mid-Atlantic, and he still had his Garmin 401 GPS that had been attached to the stock of his M4. He used it sparingly to conserve battery power, and in conjunction with the onboard charts and compass he was able to track his progress.
It wasn’t perfect, but it gave him a good idea of his location and was better than trying to use the stars, because of the frequent cloud cover. The yacht had a small nautical library aboard along with a modern sextant, and Reece spent his downtime teaching himself a new skill. He didn’t have a precise destination in mind, nor did he think he needed one: the terminal brain tumor he had recently been diagnosed with was sure to deliver him to the afterlife before long.
Just a few months ago, Reece had been a troop commander leading an element from SEAL Team Seven on a mission in Afghanistan that ended in disaster. Reece and his Team were deliberately sent into an ambush set by corrupt officials within his own chain of command. His men, and later his pregnant wife and daughter, were murdered to cover up the side effects of an experimental drug with a financial forecast that created a widespread conspiracy leading to the highest echelons of the Washington, D.C., power establishment. Those side effects were brain tumors, just like the one growing inside Reece. In revenge, he had embarked on a one-man mission of retribution that left a swath of bodies from coast to coast. Reece now found himself on the open ocean, a world away from the death and destruction he’d wrought on U.S. soil.
The interior of the Bitter Harvest was intended for far more hands than Reece’s solo crew, which left him plenty of room belowdecks. The boat was provisioned with massive stocks of food, which filled much of the galley and nearly the entire second stateroom. The scene reminded him of the few times he’d been on fast-attack submarines during training missions. Those boats could make their own clean air and water; their only limitation was food. The submariners literally walked on top of their food stocks as they ate their way through the supplies. His fifty-three-gallon fuel capacity was supplemented by plastic fuel containers strapped to the deck railing. Even so, Reece was careful to keep his consumption to a minimum.
The wind howled topside and Reece bundled in his warmest layers as he steered the vessel day and night. Even after studying the instructions, Reece had a hard time trusting the NKE Marine Electronics autopilot. It still required him to be on deck every twenty minutes, its manual reminding sailors that in fair conditions at five knots one had twenty minutes to the horizon. What lay just beyond that was unknown. He wasn’t sure how long he’d live but he preferred not to die in the cold, so he took a southerly course toward Bermuda. The headaches came and went at random intervals: but for the lack of a good night’s sleep, he still felt better than he had in some time. Alone at sea, he couldn’t help but reflect upon the past few months, the violent path that had led him to this relatively peaceful location in the Atlantic. The blanket of stars at night reminded him of his daughter Lucy and the endless sea reminded him of Lauren. Lucy was fascinated with the night sky during the times they’d escaped the light pollution of Southern California, and Lauren had always loved the water. He tried to focus on the good times with the two people he loved most in this world, but with the joy of his memories came moments of unbearable pain. He was haunted by visions of their untimely and bloody deaths at the muzzle of an AK meant for him, set up by a financial and political machine that Reece had then dismantled piece by piece.
With a tinge of guilt, he thought of Katie. Fate, or a divine force, had brought investigative journalist Katie Buranek into his life at precisely the right time to help him unravel the conspiracy that had led to the deaths of his Team and family. They had endured a lot during their brief friendship, but it was how he had left her that tore at him, his last actions and words. He wondered if she understood, or if she saw him as a monster, hell-bent on revenge with no regard for those left in his bloody wake.
Brotherhood was an often-used term in the Teams, a concept that had been tested to its limits as Reece’s life had come apart in the preceding months. He had lost his brothers in arms when his troop was ambushed on a dark Afghan mountain, and he’d been betrayed by one of his closest friends on the home front. With his troop and family dead, and with death whispering in his ear, Reece had become the insurgent he’d been fighting for the past sixteen years; he had become his own enemy. Like any insurgent, he needed a safe haven in which to regroup, reequip, and plan his next move. He needed to go back to his roots.
• • •
His closest friend had recently come through when Reece needed him most, aiding Reece’s escape from New York and inserting him on his over-the-beach mission onto Fishers Island to kill the last conspirators on his list. Raife Hastings hadn’t hesitated when Reece requested assistance, risking everything for his former teammate without asking for anything in return.
They’d met on the rugby pitch at the University of Montana in the fall of 1995, Reece playing outside center and Raife as the number eight, by far the most skilled competitor on the team. Rugby was an obscure sport to most Americans in the early 1990s, so the community and the culture it fostered was a tight one. The running joke was that they were a drinking team with a rugby problem.
A year ahead of Reece in school, Raife had the serious demeanor of someone twice their age. The hint of an accent that Reece couldn’t quite place suggested a history beyond the borders of North America. As Reece quickly tired of the traditional party scene associated with college life, he noted that Raife spent his free time either studying wildlife management in the library or taking off alone in his Jeep Scrambler to explore the Montana backcountry.
When Reece figured he had reached the point where his prowess on the pitch had earned him some time with the team captain, he decided to pry. At one of the famed rugby team parties at Raife’s off-campus house, Reece made his approach.
“Beer?” Reece asked over the music, holding out a red Solo cup recently topped off from the keg outside.
“Naw, I’m good, mate,” Raife responded, holding up a glass with what Reece assumed was whiskey.
“Nice muley,” Reece commented, nodding at a shoulder mount of a mule deer measuring what Reece figured to be over two hundred inches.
“Ah, that was a great hunt. Back the Breaks. A wise old deer, that one.”
“Is that where you’re from?”
“Yeah, Winifred would be the closest town.”
“Incredible country up there, but it’s not really known for its rugby. Where were you from before that?”
Raife hesitated, took a sip of his drink, and replied, “Rhodesia.”
“Rhodesia? You mean Zimbabwe?”
Raife shook his head. “I can’t bring myself to call her that.”
“The Marxist government is stealing the farms that have been in families for generations. It’s the reason we came to the U.S., but that was when I was just a kid.”
“Oh, man, we don’t hear much about that over here. My dad spent some time in Africa before I was born. He doesn’t talk about it, but he had a book on the Selous Scouts on the shelf in his study that I read in high school. Those guys were hard-core.”
“You know about the Scouts?” Raife looked up, surprised.
“Yeah, my dad was in the military, a frogman in Vietnam. I’ve read about every military book on special operations I could get my hands on.”
“My dad was in the Scouts, back when I was young,” Raife offered. “We barely ever saw him until the war was over.”
“Really? Wow! My dad was gone a lot, too. He went to work at the State Department after the Navy.”
Raife looked at his younger teammate suspiciously. “You mentioned the muley. You a hunter?”
“I’d go out with my dad every chance we got.”
“Well, we might as well do this right, then. Finish that beer,” he said, pulling out a bottle of whiskey with a label Reece was unfamiliar with and pouring them both a couple of fingers.
“What should we drink to?” Reece asked.
“My dad would always say ‘To the lads,’ which was something from his time in the Scouts.”
“Well, that’s certainly good enough for me. ‘To the lads,’ then.”
“To the lads.” Raife nodded.
“What is this?” Reece asked, surprised by how smoothly it had gone down.
“It’s something my dad gave me before I drove down. ‘Three Ships,’ it’s called. From South Africa. I don’t think you can get it here.”
Encouraged by what seemed to be the start of a new friendship and by the lubrication of the whiskey, the normally stoic Raife began talking about his upbringing in Africa, their farm in what was then Rhodesia, their move to South Africa after the war, and their eventual immigration into the United States.
“I’m headed out to Block Four tomorrow morning, early. I have an elk tag. You want to go?”
“I’m in,” Reece responded without hesitation.
The two were on the road at 0430 the next morning. It became obvious to Reece that his rugby team captain was a serious hunter who pursued mule deer and elk with the same dedication that he applied in the classroom and on the pitch. Reece had never met anyone with Raife’s instincts for the natural world; it was as if he were part of it.
As fall turned to winter, they would set out following class Thursday afternoons and hunt dawn to dusk, carrying their compound bows and minimalist camping gear on their backs. Raife was always pushing farther from the trailhead, deeper into the timber, higher up the mountain. They would barely speak, so as not to disturb the heightened senses of their quarry, and were soon able to read each other’s thoughts by body language, hand signals, and subtle changes in facial expression.
During one of their trips that fall, Reece shot a massive bull elk at the bottom of a canyon at last light. It was Sunday evening, and they both had classes the next morning that could not be missed. They worked quickly to butcher the bull by headlamp and carried him out on their backs, their packs laden with nearly one hundred pounds of meat per trip. It took them three hours to hike out of the bottom and back to the trailhead, where they hung the meat and headed back for more. They worked all night to recover the bull and hadn’t had a second’s sleep when they stumbled into class, their clothing caked with dried sweat and elk blood. Even in Montana, this drew strange looks from their professors and classmates. Their appearance that morning earned them the nickname the “Blood Brothers,” and the moniker stuck with them through the remainder of their college years.
To store the massive amount of meat they’d packed out of the wilderness during the season, Raife added an additional chest freezer to his garage. During colder days of winter, they honed the art of preparing wild game. Their “beast feasts” became potluck events, with fellow students bringing their own side items and desserts to accompany the elk tenderloin, deer roast, or duck breast that the Blood Brothers had painstakingly prepared. Reports of homemade liquor being served were never fully substantiated.
Reece visited Raife’s family ranch outside Winifred that next spring and was amazed at the sprawling property. It wasn’t over-the-top, by any means, but it was obvious that the Hastingses had done well. It explained Raife’s Jeep and off-campus house. Mr. Hastings conveyed to Reece that he’d brought with him to Montana the techniques he’d learned ranching in Rhodesia. Back in Africa they didn’t always have the option to bid on expensive, well-bred cows at auction and often found themselves nursing weak or even sick cattle back to health. While others in the Montana ranching community continued to pay high prices for registered cows at auction, only to be caught off guard when the market shifted, the Hastingses bought the less desirable cattle and built them up, in essence buying low and selling high. When other ranchers had to sell parts of their property, the Hastingses were on solid financial ground and could purchase additional property at rock-bottom prices, not so much to run more cattle, but to diversify their assets. That newly acquired land allowed them to add hunting leases and operations to their portfolio while those same lands appreciated in value. They built a solid reputation as a family that knew the business and knew the land.
For the next three years, the Blood Brothers were inseparable, hunting in the fall, backcountry skiing in the winter, rock climbing and kayaking in the spring. It was during a visit with the Reece family in California that Raife made the decision to join the Navy. His own father had instilled in him a deep sense of appreciation for their adopted country, and his family’s military service in the Rhodesian Bush War made it seem like a mandatory family obligation. When Mr. Reece told him that SEAL training was some of the toughest ever devised by a modern military, Raife made his decision to test himself in the crucible known as BUD/S.
The Blood Brothers’ only separation was during the summers, when Raife would travel to work on the family farm in Zimbabwe. His father wanted him to maintain the connection with his roots working for his uncle’s hunting outfit back in the old country. Raife felt most at home alongside the trackers, whose skill and instinct for reading animal signs bordered on supernatural. With them Raife was able to hone his skills in the African wilderness and perfect his command of the local Shona language.
Reece traveled to Zimbabwe during one college summer and spent a month working in the bush alongside his friend. They were the junior men in camp, and so their work wasn’t very glamorous: changing tires, maintaining the safari trucks, helping in the skinning shed. Just before the final week of Reece’s visit, Raife’s uncle approached them after a particularly hard day in the field. He handed them a piece of yellow legal paper. It was their leftover quota, animals that they were required to harvest by the biologists who managed the game in their conservancy but that hadn’t been hunted successfully by clients during the season. It was time for the boys from Montana to hunt and deliver the meat to the walk-in coolers that supplied food to the hundreds of workers employed by the Hastingses tobacco farming, cattle ranching, and safari operations.
“Take a Cruiser and a tracker. You have the run of the place. Just don’t bugger it up, eh?”
• • •
Reece’s reminiscing was broken by a cold breeze blowing across his face. He looked up to the sight of a front on the skyline, moving rapidly in his direction. Was it a red sky this morning? Something about the look of this storm unnerved him. It might even be more powerful than the one he’d sailed through when his journey began. He put on his raingear and made sure that everything on the deck was secure. He’d made a habit of wearing a safety line when topside and he checked to ensure that it was connected at both ends. When it hit, he would lower the sails to ride out the storm, but for now he took a tack to take full advantage of the wind, then headed below to make coffee; this would be a long night.
When the front hit, it did so with a vengeance. The cabin top kept the bulk of the rain out of the cockpit, but it was impossible to stay dry. Reece had lowered and stowed the sails to protect them from the ravaging winds, so the boat now moved under diesel power. An experienced sailor would be able to harness the power of the storm, but Reece didn’t feel the risk was worth the potential speed reward. He wasn’t worried so much about navigation at this point; his goal was to make it through the storm without sustaining any significant damage to the boat. He would figure out where he was if he survived. The sky had darkened and the seas churned ferociously; not being able to anticipate the next big wave was the most unnerving part.
Reece couldn’t help but remember his last time in rough seas years earlier, speeding toward a class 3 tanker in the northern Arabian Gulf. It had been dark then, too, just after midnight as the combatant craft-assault driven by the experienced boat drivers of Special Boat Team 12 pursued their quarry while it made a beeline for Iranian waters. That was a few years back and Reece had been surrounded by a team, by the best in the business. Now he was all alone.
Though his family lineage dated back to the Vikings of ancient Denmark, Reece decided if there had ever been a genetic aptitude for seafaring pursuits, it had certainly been diluted since the ninth century. Water washed steadily over the starboard bow, but the bilge pumps did their duty and the Bitter Harvest stayed dry belowdecks. The boat bobbed like a toy in the maelstrom of wind and water, Reece’s life totally at the mercy of the elements and the skill of the boat’s builders. Even with a modern craft, the conditions were terrifying. Reece pictured his Nordic ancestors making such crossings in open wooden boats and decided that they were far more skilled than he. With his longish hair and beard soaked in rain and seawater, though, he didn’t think he’d look too out of place on one of their longboats. He wondered what offering they would make at this moment to stay in the good graces of Aegir, the Norse sea deity fond of dragging men and their ships into the depths.
Just when Reece was sure that the seas couldn’t get any rougher, the storm dialed up its intensity. The craft surged upward as a flash of lightning illuminated the ocean, and for a split second Reece was sure it wasn’t the tumor that was going to kill him; he was riding directly toward the crest of a wave that towered above the boat’s mast.
Like a roller coaster, the vessel paused at the peak of the wave before surging downward toward the black sea below. Reece felt weightless as he gripped the stainless-steel wheel with both hands and braced for impact, screaming an animal roar at the top of his lungs. All thirty thousand pounds of the Bitter Harvest careened into the trough in a deafening crash, Reece’s body slamming into the wheel with the force of a driver in a head-on collision, knocking him into darkness.
A cold wave washing over the gunwale shocked Reece into consciousness. He found himself lying on the deck between the steering stations, his face throbbing from its meeting with the boat’s wheel. His hand instinctively went to his face and came away wet with blood that washed translucent almost instantly in the downpour. His head was gashed open and his nose felt broken, but he was alive; the boat’s keel had held. Using the wheel to pull himself to his feet, he reclaimed his place at the helm. Blood ran into his eyes, not that he could see much anyway. He focused on keeping the compass oriented south so he would pass through the storm as quickly as possible. Things didn’t improve much, but they didn’t seem to get worse. He hoped that the massive wave he’d ridden was the climax of the storm. Perhaps he was just adapting, but it seemed as though the weather was easing a bit. Over the next few hours Reece would wipe the blood from his eyes, check the heading, adjust the rigging, and wipe the blood away again. His nose throbbed and the open wound on his forehead stung in the salty spray of the unforgiving Atlantic winds.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fast paced. The single mindedness Navy SEAL James Reece is plausible. His ability to stay off the grid is entertaining. Although at times I had to punch my, "I believe," button.
This is an amazing book. I laughed, cried, feared, felt anxiety, love, hated. This tell us what our military go thru for us and our country. Thank these men & women for their service and bravery. Jack Carr, thank you. I have enjoyed both your books so much. They are sooooo good! And, I feel safer today than when I started reading your book. Thank you for your service...you & your buds. XXX