A van is speeding on a dirt road leaving a trail of white dust behind it. The driver is a training team leader, expert in preparing homemade explosives. She is in charge of passing on the knowledge to others who will make use of it to create detonation devices to be used for suicide bomb jackets.

Far above, at a distance that keeps it out of sight and out of sound, a drone is hovering above marking a dot of infrared laser on the roof of the van and sending HD video to a command and control centre 300 miles away. A group of young officers in uniform need to decide whether to press the “ENTER” key (no, there are no red buttons…) that will launch a short-range missile from a nearby base that will lock on the infrared dot on the roof of the van.

Should they press the key? Does it matter if the training team leader husband sits next to her and her three children, two boys and a girl, are sitting at the back seats of the car? Should they die too? These windows of exposure time are so rare… Or maybe leave her alone this time and track her to find bigger fish? And how many innocent lives will that cost? Is it worth the price?

In my book I take these questions to the extreme. What will an intelligence organization be willing to do in order to save lives? How many people will need to die in order to save others? Sometimes both sides of the moon are dark. Some people will call the training team leader a terrorist; others will call her a freedom fighter, depending on which side of the fence you are.

Pressing “ENTER” is one thing but killing someone in short range is different. What kind of person will be able and willing to do that? How insane does he need to be in order to kill on a large scale? Dozens of people? Hundreds? How far will an organization go to hire the kind of people who will be willing to do this? A field agent has endless power behind him – the eyes, ears and arms of the state. Thousands of people are working behind the scenes supporting him in the background in a war that is raging below the surface – a war with no rules.

I’m trying to describe what goes on in the head of a field agent that was recruited for a mission involving the killing of innocent people, why that specific person was recruited and what was done to him to make him do that. The intelligence organization I picked is an Israeli one but the moral question is viable for any country.

I love science and the story is filled with calculations and formulas which are mostly real, besides a couple of invented ‘facts’ that I planted in the plot. A large part of the research for the story was done using the Internet. I was googling stuff like “How to manufacture nitro-glycerine” and “How much uranium is required to build an atomic bomb?” At the same time, I told my wife that if a few guys with black suits and ties knock on our door, holding a warrant and handcuffs, don’t be alarmed – this is probably because of the book I am working on.

Nir Hezroni’s thriller THREE ENVELOPES is published by Point Blank on 6 April, paperback original £12.99.

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