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Or maybe you want a shot at the O-line? Note the brilliant triple duty this paragraph serves. Second, Elam-Yohn explain the joke, helpfully reminding readers who the pope is. Finally, they add a completely irrelevant observation about real football, reminding fans that Elam was a Broncos player and therefore can offer inside details about the offensive line that casual fans have known for decades. Ricci begins to act suspicious as a group of central-casting terrorists orchestrate a plan to blow up the Mall of America. The plan is mostly thwarted a bomb detonates in a parking lot by Scott Ross, Riley's former second-in-command turned Yoohoo-swilling government hacker and code-breaker.

Ricci reacts oddly to the news, and Riley begins to wonder about his swarthy friend with a mysterious past. Elam-Yohn then reintroduce Hakeem, now a terrorist called The Cheetah, who is in deep cover in America, living a life of fame and privilege while commanding a large, well-organized terrorist cell. By page 50, even preteen readers have guessed that Sal is The Cheetah, but Elam-Yohn, flaunting the obviousness and ridiculousness of the twist, withhold the true reveal until page , after exhausting every possible plot contrivance including a fake death to make readers think they are being clumsily thrown off the scent.

Eventually, Ricci and his terrorist cell blow up the Mustangs stadium during a Monday Night Football game. Ricci smuggles exploding footballs into the stadium with the team equipment, then distributes them to his comrades while pretending to sign souvenir balls. Thousands are killed by the blasts, including the Baltimore team's running back, who dies in Riley's arms just after getting tackled.

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Ricci fakes his own death and escapes, further enraging Riley, who hasn't caught on that Ricci is the plot's mastermind. Riley returns home contemplating American-style vigilante justice, but he gets a better offer when Ross recruits him to join an elite anti-terrorist team traveling to Italy to investigate the mysterious Cheetah. Riley accepts, and Ross re-assembles his old unit, who we've barely met, with one new addition: Khadi, a beautiful Iranian-American sniper-interpreter destined to teach Riley a few important lessons about love and Islam.

It's important for me to mention that the last paragraph contained no jokes. It was an actual plot synopsis. The rest of the novel plays out like an elaborate game of learning-disabled cat and narcoleptic mouse, as Riley, Ross, and Khadi chase Sal the Cheetah through Europe and back to Pasadena, where Sal may be planning to attack the PFL Cup.

Elam-Yohn litter the story with carefully-constructed plot holes that brilliantly undercut the narrative. The Cheetah, for example, travels from Colorado to Mexico to Italy to Mexico to Pasadena in a few weeks, an amazingly convoluted route for an international fugitive just days after a major terrorist bombing.

Elam-Yohn's subversive wit can be found in other exquisitely-rendered writing techniques:. For example, with our heroes combing Europe, America presumably in mourning over the Colorado Stadium Tragedy, and a terrorist suspect freshly "persuaded" into a coma by interrogators, we get the following sequence:. Goofy," Tara said, immediately regretting her attempt at a zinger, which for some reason had seemed quite cutting when she'd rehearsed it in her head. Oh yeah, that's Kasemi. What did you call me? Sorry, I thought we were doing Disney names.

Didn't you, Mickey? In an earlier sequence, Ross and top agent Jim Hicks spend Christmas night at the office. After a page of cute character revelation Hicks gives Ross a case of Yoohoo; Ross gives his commander a subscription to Guns and Ammo they suddenly bare their souls to one another. Ross, a comic relief character for much of the novel, reveals that he's the child of drug addicts who sent him into dealers' houses to buy drugs as a child. Hicks reveals that he's a multiple divorcee who left his first wife after she refused to have an abortion and slapped his second wife when the pressure after got to him.

When we see Ross again about 20 pages later, he's back to being a lovable, iconoclastic techie agent, and Hicks is again an old-school Nick Fury knockoff. Such tone shifts simply have to be intentional.

Elam and Yohn rub the reader's face in them, creating cognitive dissonance that both elevates awareness and lowers expectations. Late in the novel, when the authors spend three-and-a-half pages parodying a vapid Super Bowl pregame show while terrorists descend on Pasadena and a seriously-injured Riley tries to decipher the Cheetah's plans, readers have surrendered to the power of the prose. Earth Prime Doppelgangers To avoid legal issues, Elam-Yohn created a fictitious alternate universe in which the PFL is America's top football league and the Colorado Mustangs are the team that represents the city of Denver.

The New York Times still calls it the P. Please don't fire me. All of the other teams have names that closely mimic their NFL counterparts, so we read about the Oakland Bandits, Baltimore Predators, and Boston Colonials, among others. The Mustangs lost a PFL Cup to the Texas Outlaws decades ago, their defense was once called the Red Scare, and the arch-enemy Bandits were once coached by Jim Madison, who later became a famous announcer interestingly, youngsters still play Madden football on page We've seen that their linemen don't talk to the media, and their kicker, Tory Girchwood, is so accurate that he can knock a beer out of a Bandits fan's arms with a punt.

No football detail is too minute or irrelevant for Elam-Yohn to twist into the tortured logic of their mirror-verse. Los Angeles' inability to field a PFL team is brought up. The reader is left reaching for parallels that might not exist. Is the dead Predators running back Jamal Lewis? A Predators offensive coordinator also dies -- did Elam have any beef against Jim Fassel?


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And what about Ricci? The reader is forced to believe that Elam looked over at Shannon Sharpe with suspicion at least once during their years together. Late in the novel, Tyrone Wheatley is inexplicably name-dropped, one of the few individuals Chad Hennings is another who exist in both universes. The mention shatters any assumptions the reader had that he, or anyone else, is in control of the story.

Boldly Dichotomous Narrative Choices The characters in Monday Night Jihad never curse or make any sexually explicit remarks, a unique feat in a novel crammed with football players, federal agents, and evil criminals, all being pushed to their physical and emotional limits. When Jim Hicks gets off the phone with a clueless Homeland Security Director, the hardened career soldier calls the politician a "pompous, stuffed shirt, windbag, fancy tie-wearing good-for-nothing.

But in a novel with a body count in the thousands, where suspects are interrogated with knives at their throats, federal agents are decapitated, and the hero is tortured with electrodes on his nipples, the absence of a simple "ass" or "dammit" causes massive meta-cognitive de-centering for the reader. Elam-Yohn's studied homage to thriller tropes extends to the tough guy-showdown dialogue, which doesn't need obscenity to be just as inane as you'd find in any potboiler or action flick. There are dozens of tough-guy showdowns: agent-on-agent, interrogator on terrorist, linebacker-on-tight end, and so on, and each comes with stereotypical, giggle-inducing dialogue.

Near the end of the novel, Hicks challenges the clueless Homeland Security Director, who doesn't want to assign extra security to the PFL Cup just because one stadium has already been bombed and Riley ascertained top-secret plans while being held prisoner. Are you expecting an engraved invitation to the Jihad party at the PFL cup?

BYOB — bring your own bomb! The authors finally reveal their ultimate goal with this bit of dialogue: they make us hate terrorists, not just for blowing things up, but also for inspiring predictable action novels. Conclusion We've only scratched the surface of Monday Night Jihad. We didn't cover Elam-Yohn's brilliant name for the terrorist organization The Cause!

It's all sublimely subversive and giddily postmodern. Elam and Yohn leave us with one final question: why make the hero of your novel a linebacker if he doesn't do any linebacker stuff? Riley never tackles a terrorist or puts a swim move on a would-be attacker. He never designs a strategy that resembles a blitz or a Tampa-2 St. Petersburg Deux in the PFL zone. Inshallah —it is as Allah wills.

One thing every young Muslim learned growing up in Chechnya was that Allah often called the few to sacrifice for the many. The very fact that they were in this secret prison meant that they had access to vital information. If they were recaptured and put to the same treatment again, they would break—everyone broke eventually.

It was best just to send them to their eternal reward while there was still a possibility that they might arrive with their honor intact. When the last of the prisoners had stopped moving, Abdalayev said into his comm, Finish up. Proceed to the rendezvous point immediately. The agreed-upon spot was a large dying oak tree half a kilometer away and just off the road.

This would hopefully draw any pursuit that might follow. Abdalayev and the former prisoner, meanwhile, would drive a BMW southeast into Ukraine. The mercenary commander was confident that he could make it across the border with his fake passports. It would be difficult for the Americans to raise much of an alert. If only things had been this easy when he was defending Grozny back in If that had been successful, then maybe he would be home right now with a wife and sons instead of here with mud on his hands and blood on his boots.

Some days it brought freedom, and another day it brought a bullet in the back of the head for being in the wrong prison at the wrong time. Allah knew what was best; blessed be his name. There was not much that could give Riley Covington the heebie-jeebies—moldy sour cream, chewing on tinfoil, the music of Barry Manilow—but looking at what was in the tall fountain glass that had just been placed in front of Scott Ross was seriously making his skin crawl and his stomach dance the mambo. You ordered it, you drink it, Riley countered, sliding the sweating glass back across the polished wood.

Skeeter Dawkins and Khadijah Faroughi rounded out the foursome. When I ordered guanabana juice, I thought I was going to get some sort of guava and banana mixture. Riley grinned. He knew Scott had been trying really hard to use his verbal filter on this trip, albeit with limited success. Thank you, Scott. Just try it. You might be surprised. Bringing the glass to his lips, Skeeter downed the juice in one continuous motion. Riley took a sip of his fresh pineapple juice as he laughed. At the next table over, a little tico girl with enormous brown eyes and her hair in ponytails shyly turned for the fourth time to watch this big, happy American man.

She jumped as Riley caught her eyes, then quickly spun back around when Riley shot her a quick wink. These last two weeks in Costa Rica had been exactly what each of the four had needed to physically and emotionally recover from the events of the beginning of the year. This group had experienced a lot of pain and had shed—and spilled—a lot of blood in the search for Hakeem Qasim.

Only now was Riley finally feeling ready to go back to Denver to face life again. Riley Covington knew he faced a decision when he got home. Three months ago, he was an All-Pro linebacker for the Colorado Mustangs. Then, suddenly, his old life had literally blown up in his face when a terrorist group bombed Platte River Stadium in Denver during a Monday night game. Nearly two thousand people were killed in that suicide attack. Can I really go back to the Professional Football League as if nothing ever happened? But do I have the passion anymore? She motioned to the waitress who was trying to put his food down.

Oh, sorry, he said to the woman as he dropped his elbows off the table. His jaw immediately followed his elbows when he saw the plate that was put in front of him. Holy Mother Russia, what is that monstrosity? Scott asked before realizing that two more were being delivered to him and Khadi. His plate was overflowing with strawberries and huge chunks of pineapple, watermelon, and mango. In fact, I would never forgive myself if I did. Yeah, well, we all know where that gets us, Pach, Scott said.

If I try to eat all this, it could make for a long, painful flight home. This stuff will shoot through me like. Khadi, this whole verbal filter thing is really a pain. Scott called the manager of the restaurant over and had him take a picture of the three of them with their fruit salads and Skeeter with his Cuban sandwich. Nice smile, Skeet, Scott said as he checked out the picture in the digital viewer of his camera. You look like someone just stole your brass knuckles.

As he waved his hand in an attempt to clear the air in front of his face, his eyes were drawn to Skeeter, who was so intent on something up the street that he had completely ignored his plate. Hey, Skeet, you okay? Caught them looking this way a few times. One was sitting on a car, and the other was leaning against a building. Their close-cropped black hair and full beards seemed out of place on a Costa Rican street. Both men were smoking. As Riley watched, a third man walked out of a farmacia and joined them.

Will you two relax? Scott said as he turned around to look at the men. Whoa, hold on. They do look a little more hajji than tico. Khadi spotted the men also. They sure do. Hajji s are guys. As the four watched from the table, the three men walked to the far end of the block and turned out of sight. Did you see that last guy take a quick glance back before he rounded the corner? Riley asked. We need to think about making ourselves scarce.

Good call. Skeeter, what are you packing? Pass your Mark to Scott under the table. Scott and Khadi, as soon as I settle up, I want you two to walk to the corner and hang a left. Skeeter and I will cross and head up the next street to the right.

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Monday Night Jihad: A Riley Covington Thriller

Riley knew that by us all, Khadi meant the two of them. The feelings between Riley and Khadi had continued to grow over the months since they had met in the aftermath of the Platte River Stadium attack. The only thing separating them now was the only issue big enough to keep them apart—their religious beliefs. But, while both could control their actions, it was much harder to control their emotions.

Skeeter can take care—". Here they come, Skeeter yelled as he pushed Riley to the ground. Scott and Khadi dove for cover. Get inside, Riley yelled to the next table. The mother grabbed her daughter and ran through the front door. A rusting red sedan tore around the corner where the three men had disappeared and sped up the street. Both were armed with AKs. The sound of the assault rifles combined with the shattering glass of the windows sent screams up all around the restaurant.

Riley prayed that the mother had made it to the ground in time. Scott and Skeeter returned fire with their handguns. A shot from Scott put a hole in the knit mask of the man leaning over the roof. He flew off his side window perch and exploded the rear glass of a parked car. The car swerved, caught a tire, and began to roll.

On the third spin, Riley could see the other gunman ejected from his window. The last Riley saw of him was when the car landed on top of him then skidded up against a delivery truck. Written by a member of the NFL; gives readers an insider look at the world of professional athletes and military intelligence. Examines the challenges of homeland security in large-venue events. Explores the tension between the desire for revenge and the constraints of the Christian faith, especially as it relates to Islam. Jason Elam has recently returned from Iraq, where he visited and supported the troops.

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You can read his journal at mondaynightjihad. Sleeper cells are being awakened-likely by the leader of the Cause, who has recently escaped from captivity and is coordinating attacks not only on America but also on Riley and his loved ones. Meanwhile, the counterterrorism division has detected a plot to detonate electromagnetic pulse bombs that could leave the U.

CTD scrambles to stop the attacks, but they run out of time. But a new attack turns both of their lives upside down yet again. During a state funeral, terrorists overrun the National Cathedral and take senators, congressmen, and their entourages hostage, including Khadi.