AVENGER (2003) is a serious work by a talented and imaginative author. Frederick Forsyth had grown in the 32 years since he published DAY OF THE JACKAL (1971). He remained as fiercely curious and adept at dramatizing critical thought, yet in AVENGER he may have indulged these skills beyond the capacity for some contemporary readers to fully appreciate.
Exposition and back stories dominate the first half of the novel. This will try the patience of many readers. I put the book aside after reading the first chapter. Two days later, based solely on my belief in the author of DAY OF THE JACKAL, I tried again. Once adjusted to the deliberate pace and measured peeling back of layers, I was hooked and read straight through. I'm not sure how many other readers will return to the book.
Calvin Dexter, former elite "tunnel rat' in Vietnam, is an attorney who has suffered the tragic loss of his daughter and wife and now needs to help others in ways no one else can.
First, he tracks down the kidnapper-murderer of his daughter in Central America and assasinates him (anonymously).
Next he takes on the impossible mission of capturing a Serbian war criminal who killed the son of a Canadian billionaire (anonymously). He verifies the facts of Ricky Colenso's murder during the chaos of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. He develops a plan that competes with a parallel and competing scheme by the CIAs Paul Devereaux to protect the murderer from intelligence agencies for his own plan to combat Osama Bin Laden.
The novel has long sections of background threads that eventually intersect and pay off, but the reader must be engaged by the research and layers of detail to be rewarded.
Recommended to dedicated fans of the thriller. Forsyth is a master.
For those short on time or patience for backstory, you might appreciate Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series.