While researching the role of the Mafia in pre-Castro Cuba, I was surprised at one particular racket that was above the usual loansharking and gambling. For years the Mafia was involved with the theft of of weapons and supplies from National Guard depots and military bases. Though this was in the 1950s, the crimes continued, perpetrated by a variety of criminals from mobsters to gangbangers to domestic terrorists. There was a particularly noted streak of thefts in the mid- to late-’70s. Those ’70s crimes form the basis for the debut novel from Alexandra Hamlet, The Right Guard.
CIA agent Eric Brent is assigned to go undercover and find out who is behind a series of robberies from military bases. He uncovers a conspiracy that infiltrates the highest levels of government, a parallel army looking to take over the United States. Though set in 1978, the plot could easily be taking place now. The storyline echoes some of the more extreme conversations taking place now about the role of government and the direction of the country.
The story is a solid and somewhat unique political thriller. Even the ending is not what I expected. Hamlet has a varied background including as a defense anthropologist. She knows the ins and outs of defense operations. To that end, I would have liked to see more action, but it probably would not have fit the story as well. All in all, The Right Guard is a strong debut novel.