The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Cobra was a bit of a disappointment for me, especially since I love Forsyth and most of his works. The premise is pretty simple. The president, who is clearly meant to be Obama, decides to take on the cocaine cartels and wants them wiped out. To do this, he turns to an ex-CIA man code named “The Cobra,” who assures him that with appropriate time and resources, he can do it. He then recruits an ex-soldier named Cal Dexter to be his second in command. And thus begin my complaints with the book.
After this initial introduction to The Cobra, we almost never see him again until the very end of the book. How odd is that? Instead, Dexter is everywhere — all over the world — coordinating the logistics for putting together cocaine hunter/killer special ops groups who are going to take on the cartels by air and sea. Additionally, friendly governments are recruited to help, the British by sending their special forces, others by ramping up security. And halfway through the book, after tons of planning, the operation begins. And goes on and on. And the good guys — who are real god — and the bad guys — who are real bad — go at it, with the good guys winning virtually 100% of the time, so incredibly easily that you have to wonder if the government actually followed this novel as a planning guide, could it eradicate the drug trade? Forsyth makes it look so damn easy. And that’s not remotely realistic.
There’s a twist at the end that brings The Cobra back into the story and also involves Dexter. By now, the cartels have figured out what’s going on to a certain degree, but seem powerless to stop it. Amazing. What happens at the very end was a bit of a surprise to me, and a welcome one, actually, but it couldn’t save the book. Why name the book “The Cobra” when it actually should have been named “Cal Dexter?” It doesn’t make sense. Why write a book that makes winning the war on drugs — which America has stunningly lost to a shocking degree — look so incredibly easy when we know it’s not? It’s not remotely realistic. Some people complain of boredom due to the incredible detail and planning that went on during the first half of the book. Well, that’s basically Forsyth’s way, so I personally don’t have a problem with that. But it’s got to lead somewhere. And this led nowhere. Another complaint — there’s no sense of suspense or real danger to the good guys in this book. You get that in the Odessa File, the Jackal, the Fourth Protocol, etc., but not here. It’s just non-stop intercepting and destroying drug shipments left and right. The only danger is to the bad guys. Not much of a thriller.
Normally I highly recommend Forsyth books, but I’m afraid this time I can’t. I’m not even sure why I’m giving it three stars instead of two. I guess out of respect for the author. Not recommended.