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The prequel to The Unit series, Before the Unit: The Recruiting of Kevin Banks is the backstory of how the unit operative code-named “Spud” found himself first in the Secret Service’s Presidential Protective Detail and then found himself joining the law enforcement team known only as “the unit”. As he tells his story to his wife, “Hank”—the woman who is the team’s sniper—you get to ride along with him in The Beast with the president he most admired.
Just how did he get that funny code name, “Spud”?
In the first book of The Unit series, you meet Kathryn Hanko. Working for the FBI and stationed in the Albuquerque Field Office, she receives orders to return to Quantico, Virginia—home of the FBI Academy. But is that really where she’s going? Ushered aboard a Department of Justice Gulfstream 550, she meets a man whom she soon determines is not there to introduce her to a new assignment in the FBI. Accepting the call, she then finds herself undergoing a rigorous intake evaluation, and is given her code name, “Hank”, when she insists that they just use her surname minus the O so she can “just be one of the guys”. The only woman in the team, she hides herself behind a string of epithets suitable for fishermen, driven by her anxiety to fit in. Will she ever lose that <expletive deleted> mouth of hers? And how does she end up being Spud’s wife?
See what happens as she joins the team in her first assignment: tracking down an extremist group calling itself Camp Chaos.
Having completed her first mission with the unit against a terrorist group, Hank and the team then find themselves faced with a dilemma: should they take a mission to assassinate the president of the United States when legal means fail to remove him from office? It sure looks like he’s off his rocker, especially when he threatens nuclear war. With their oath to defend the Constitution on one hand and the potential nuclear death toll on the other, they have to choose—and choose they do. As a result, Hank must prepare to make a death-dealing shot to the president without getting her or any of her team caught. But as Sir William Gilbert once wrote, things are seldom what they seem!
As Hank becomes more accustomed to life in the team, she joins in the regular training and information-gathering that they engage in to be ready for whatever mission one of the nation’s federal law enforcement agencies asks this top-tier “black ops” law enforcement team to tackle. It’s a necessary mission of readiness until they get called to solve a case that has baffled even the best people within those agencies.
When tasked with discovering who is running untraceable “ghost” guns into Mexican drug cartel hands, the death of her addicted brother at the hands of drug dealers weighs heavily on her mind. The discovery of just who is involved will stun her to the core.
Fresh on the heels of dealing with drug cartel activity, Hank’s next mission with the team will have them scurrying to find a killer who has chosen for a method to kill of distributing tainted drugs. The killer turns out to be elusive and determined as deaths from tainted methamphetamine start appearing in communities all around the country. But why?
As she works with the rest of the team to track and apprehend the killer, she also becomes privy to a not-so-secret unit secret: those contractors who work for them? Most of the time, they’re former members of the unit’s Field Team of operatives. Enlisting the aid of one of these former members, the team chases a murderer of the nation’s addicts, utilizing tracking and detection devices fabricated by their own “f***ing genius”, Voice, who is the programmer of Hal—the unit’s massive supercomputer as well as the creator of the advanced technology the team uses.
With the successful completion of their last mission, the unit’s team of field operatives soon finds themselves twiddling their thumbs and itching for something to do. With the memory of one of her last cases as an FBI agent being the abduction, rape, and murder of a five-year-old girl, Hank lobbies for working on a mission to rescue children being sexually exploited and jail their exploiters. This ripped-from-case-files story is based on the sad truth about child sexual exploitation that occurs right here in the United States. As much truth as fiction, every phone number is real, every reference to an organization that fights this heinous crime against children of both sexes genuine.
It’s on to the next mission when bombs, disguised as packages from an online retail store, start exploding around the country. If the tainted meth killer was elusive, this one is even more so! The team finds themselves stymied when even trying to determine how the bomber is getting the money to crisscross the nation and why the victims are chosen.
Being sidestepped by their quarry at every turn, the team finally manages to catch up with him. It will require the expert teamwork between Hank and her sniper team spotter, Amigo, to bring down the bomber before he performs his grand finale.
The team’s next mission starts with Hank reading a book about the past anthrax scare, and how it may have been a government plot. Finding the book’s arguments plausible, her suspicions are heightened when the unit’s forensic scientist, Dr. Sue Pratt, reveals her experiences when she once worked on a biowarfare project while attending graduate school. It’s all just speculation until information is gathered that uncovers that a bioengineered organism has been released inside a hospital, resulting in deaths of both patients and staff.
As the team investigates further, they discover that the release was a test. A much more sinister event is being plotted. Dr. Pratt, called by the team “Doc Sue”, believes she may have successfully created a cure for the highly-resistant organism. She’ll make sure it works by testing it on herself!
It’s off to Yuma and the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground for a training mission that introduces Hank to the first instance of overt sexism she’s had to endure since becoming a member of the unit’s Field Team. She manages to wade through his sh… uh, annoying pronouncements without actually knocking out a couple of his teeth. The rest of the team, however, has to endure a dose of the same sh…tuff when she picks the rest of the team off during a “hound and hare” exercise with a laser-fitted rifle that simulates actual rifle fire.
From there, it’s on to another mission which sends her husband Spud undercover in an extremist camp, where he must endure witnessing events that are the stuff of nightmares. When he returns to the unit, will he be the same man he was before his ordeal? How will it affect him in his relationship with Hank?
Next comes a most unusual mission centered in Roswell, New Mexico where the unit has a remote base built in a decommissioned Atlas F nuclear missile silo. This one has the FBI stumped: What’s behind the renewed sightings of UFOs in the Roswell area? Even the team is stumped until the night before their planned departure to return to their headquarters in Nebraska, when Hank not only sees a UFO, but photographs it!
The case intensifies when the unusual sightings start occurring more and more often over the unit’s remote base. They pursue the truth behind the sightings by interviewing others who have taken photos of the unusual objects and having the unit’s massive supercomputer, Hal, analyze them, with the analysis revealing that the photos are genuine. In the end, they declare the case unsolved—something the team never does! Is it really unsolved, or do they just not want to talk about their findings?
The team’s next mission takes them to Pennsylvania, where news of women who are having their faces carved to resemble a tiki mask are occurring. When the case is determined to be linked to the deaths of plastic surgeons as well, they have to figure out who is perpetrating the crimes while being baffled as to why they’re being done.
The team must rely heavily on their forensics expert, Dr. Sue Pratt, who in turn utilizes her expertise gained from the examination of soil and plant samples the team gathers regularly as what they term her quest to possess “the largest database of dirt and DNA in the country”.
The mission ends with a surprising twist!
Hank’s constant reading always seems to spur her into a pursuit of the truth, and this case is no exception. When she starts looking into the case of a former FBI agent who had been convicted of running guns into the hands of Mexican cartels, she becomes more and more troubled by oddities surrounding the case. Becoming convinced that he was wrongfully accused and convicted, she takes it upon herself to right an injustice. Her teammates soon agree to assist in her efforts to clear an innocent man of the label of “felon”.
Based on a true story.
When a woman is diagnosed with terminal cancer and given just weeks to live, she decides to go on a rampage. Choosing to go after the people in her past whom she feels wronged her, she sells her possessions, keeping only the guns she enjoyed shooting. Purchasing a mobile home, she then devises a plan to travel across the country, hunting down her former classmates. Disturbingly, she also has the same first name that Hank had before she became part of the unit. It’s sniper versus sniper as the team tries to intercept Kathryn Hamburg before she can return to her home town where most of them still live and finish her mission of vengeance.
Hank’s disturbance over the similarities between herself and Kathryn Hamburg from the previous mission has her looking back to other disturbing events in her past. Most notably have been the cases involving children: the rape and murder of 5-year-old Alexandra, and the rescue of Robin VanDyk only after she had already endured molestation. When another case comes to the Field Team’s attention involving the abduction of a young girl from a rural community in Oklahoma, Hank must once again face this particular one of her demons. Can they find and rescue Peggy DeGennes before she is sold as a sex object for a grown man? After they take her abductor into custody, the hunt intensifies when he refuses to talk. What has happened to Peggy?
Previously, the unit had prepared itself against an attack by creating systems for their headquarters that would allow the underground facility to be completely sealed off from the outside world. Little did they realize that these measures would be needed until a deadly organism begins to race through the world’s population. When cases start appearing near their Nebraska lair, the head medical officer, Dr. Lois Richardson (“Doc Rich”) orders the facility into lockdown.
The isolation of the Field Team is ended when word that the nation’s most secure prison facility, the Supermax in Florence, Colorado, becomes compromised. With staffing at a minimum due to the illness gripping the country, a determined criminal incarcerated there plans and executes his escape. He then resumes his demented plan to be the most prolific serial killer of all time. To end his terror spree, the Field Team must chase the “Headcount Killer” while attempting to not become infected.
It starts to get spooky when the team is called upon to investigate mysterious deaths linked to exposure to thallium, a toxic metal being doped onto medallions found around the victims’ necks. Edge, the team’s most religious member, recognizes the medallion as being a sigil—a demonic sign—with this one being for Abt, the raven of death.
During their search for the source of the sigil, they encounter an odd woman while eating lunch in a diner. “Miss Martha”, as the locals know her, seems to have a gift: she can see visions that reveal truths, which she relates in a cryptic manner. When she encounters Hank, she turns to her and tells her she is “seven, the seventh of seven”, appearing to correctly identify her given Hank is the seventh member of the seven-member Field Team and has the designation of “FT7”. Subsequent contacts with Miss Martha prove to be prophetically true! But can they find the man who holds the devil in his hand?
An agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has been investigating a group he believes to be amassing guns. When a family from the group, a fringe religious community living in a compound isolated from others, escapes and finds themselves seeking the protection of the government the group distrusts, the investigation into the group intensifies. With the BATF’s own special response teams already involved in other cases, the team is called in to investigate.
Fearing the potential of another Waco, Hank and Spud are chosen to infiltrate the group, posing as man and wife with ideologies identical to the community’s. They soon find themselves integrated into the group, occupying the house once occupied by the family that escaped. Learning of certain atrocities perpetrated by the community’s leader, their lives become endangered when a crisis in the compound leads to a confrontation with the man.
It’s time for the Field Team to travel for another training mission: this time, to learn cross-country skiing at Remote Base Kilgore in Idaho. One of the team’s many superstitions surrounds the location with the belief that the complex is haunted! Their new team medic, Frank Langenberg (“Doc Frank”) finds out the hard way that it’s impolite to not greet Bruce, the former owner of the place.
Under the tutelage of Voice who has the most experience on skis, the newbies from the desert Southwest, Hank and Amigo, soon gain the skills needed to master the activity, and just in time. When the team is called upon to solve the brutal murders of women, they must meet first with the only victim of the killer to have survived. Having been brutally assaulted and left for dead, she survived—but only with life-changing injuries. Will they be able to track down the killer before he strikes again? Find out, and also find out what precipitated his demented actions.
It’s back to familiar territory for Hank and Amigo as the Field Team travels back to southern New Mexico for a training exercise in desert survival, led by their former Marine Corps Raider, Edge. While engaged in the exercise, the team and their medical support group camped nearby become aware that they no longer have contact with Hal, the unit’s massive composite processor supercomputer. Highly dependent on Hal, they must find their way back to rendezvous with their medical team and then return to their Nebraska headquarters, where Voice must gain entry and regain access to Hal.
What created the issue with Hal? Unwitting interference by a student who has become convinced that he must destroy the data servers at the NSA’s massive Bluffdale, Utah data center. The team must track and attempt to apprehend the suspect. How does he plan to penetrate the security surrounding the facility?
With the team once again engaged in the usual gathering of intelligence and planning for potential mission scenarios, Hank lobbies for another hunt—this time for a moose. Although not moose season, the authorities in Montana grant the team’s request (reluctant on the part of the men of the team) as they have had issues with a rogue moose at a popular campsite. The training exercise is not without odd events, the oddest involving Voice and the team’s new K-9 agent, Kartoffelchip.
The team then finds themselves called upon for a hunt of a different kind: finding a killer of hunters. Voice breaks out his newest device to aid in the hunt: HARVEST, an acronym for “High Altitude Relay Visual and Electronic Surveillance Tool”—a device that has some controversy surrounding it due to its capabilities.
With Hank’s deduction of the identity of UniPerp, it’s now time to try and taunt him out into the open where he can be apprehended. Little do they know that the man has since changed his appearance with the help of his new boss: a cartel kingpin known as “El Estoque” (the Rapier) for his practice of having those who cross him hacked to bits while still living and conscious.
Their quest to capture UniPerp gets interrupted, though, when coded messages as well as dead bodies start showing up back at their original base of operations: Quantico, Virginia. Cracking the code proves difficult, with even Hal not able to figure it out. It takes a human mind.
This book has a reader challenge that has so far remained unsolved. Can you break Louis Gilbert’s code? A complete author-signed set of the paperback versions of The Unit books is up for grabs! See also Anne’s take on the identity of the Zodiak killer—a case that remains unsolved—unless she just did.
The quest goes on for capturing UniPerp amid other developments that require the team to divert to another mission. This time, the actions of a hacker in combination with the landfall of a Category 4 hurricane result in the toppling of a vast area of the nation’s electrical power infrastructure. When it’s discovered that the massive blackout was in part the result of a cyberattack on the nation’s grid, the Department of Homeland Security calls upon Voice to use Hal, the unit’s massive supercomputer, to identify the hacker. They also charge the team with apprehending the perpetrator of the grid collapse.
In progress: Lone Wolf. Image and synopsis coming soon!
Also coming soon, The Unit: Gen 2! This will be the series that is sequel to The Unit series. To be written in a new style!