“Operation Relentless” is the true story of the pursuit of one of the world’s most wanted men.
- Damien Lewis
Viktor Bout is a Russian businessman who provides aircraft logistics anywhere in the world. If that was all he did, it’d be a dull book. However, he also has a very profitable line in arms dealing, selling to the highest bidder and quite often, both sides in any particular conflict.
Responsible for prolonging vicious wars such as the second civil war in Rwanda, he becomes a victim of his own success and rises to prominence in the public eye and on the US’ most wanted list.
The DEA initiate Operation Relentless in order to bring Bout to justice and they assemble a small team of professionals with varied pasts. There's Carlos, the Guatamalan ex-G2 int officer, Ricardo, ex-Colombian officer now DEA confidential informant, William Brown and Robert Zachariasiewicz, DEA agents and finally, the man who has contacts all over the world and was able to locate Bout, Mike Snow, ex-SAS and bush-savvy pilot.
It’s an elaborate plan with a lot of moving parts and the progress is painstakingly detailed, a lot of the conversations are taken directly from transcripts of covert recording of the meetings.
It is to Damien Lewis’ credit that he writes in a very engaging manner and maintains a hectic pace throughout the book, never overcomplicating things, yet managing to cram in an impressive amount of detail and nuance. You never feel lost and the main players are brought to life in a way that escapes many biographers. You care about these people and feel the genuine peril that they placed themselves into. In an undercover investigation, the stakes are the highest – make a wrong move, or say the wrong thing and at best, the suspect calls off the deal and bolts; at worst the undercover operative loses their life. This knife-edge which can bring massive rewards, or massive failure is an undercurrent that runs through the book and can turn a routine conversation into a life or death struggle.
I was thoroughly gripped by the book and finished it in record time. I’ve read some of Damien Lewis’ books a long time ago, but to my mind, this is his best yet.
I recommend it unreservedly to anyone who has even a passing interest in the world of arms dealing or undercover operations. It’s pacey, thrilling and engaging and Mr Lewis has surpassed himself with this epic account.
Towards the end of the book, Team Relentless is teased to have had other operations after this one and I hope that there are more books forthcoming about this crack undercover team.
“Operation Relentless” is a cracking read, full of drama and tension and moves at lightning pace. Highly recommended.
5 out of 5 air-to-air missiles.