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Carl Malinowski and Gabriele Barnes are back. This time, the couple faces an unexpected tragedy- a menace right in the heart of the United States, a perfect union of terror and racism.

A More Perfect Union is the second book of the Jungle Rules trilogy by Paul Shemella. Former mercenary and hero from the first book, Carl Malinowski is now living a quiet life with his wife Gabriele. Malinowski, now known as Carl Barnes, visits Washington D.C. with Gabrielle. While touring the Air and Space Museum, Carl discovers a pipe bomb. The ensuing events set the stage for another edge-of-your-seat thriller. This time, the more dangerous enemy is present in the heart of America.

A Peace Lent Too Briefly

After the events of Jungle Rules, Carl and Gabriele Barnes are finally living a life of peace. Carl is now a laid-back fishing guide on a small island in Southwest, Florida. Their marriage brought serenity to Carl and every day he is learning to adapt and interact with ordinary people, a far cry from his mercenary days. However, after a year of relative peace, Carl and Gabriele’s lives are changed forever by a tragedy neither of them ever thought.

While visiting Washington DC, the couple decided to tour the Air and Space Museum. There, Carl Barnes discovered a bomb. Acting on his instinct, Carl decided to take the bag outside and away from the crowd. Carl ran towards a small excavation he saw earlier, hoping to drop it in the pit. However, the bomb went off just seconds after Carl let go of the bag. 

The Search for the Enemy

Gabriele must cooperate with the FBI to find and bring to justice those responsible for Carl’s death. Jerry Tompkins, Carl’s best friend, and a former Navy Seal offer Gabriele protection, knowing that she will never be safe until this crisis is over. The FBI recruits Gabriele and Jerry and together they hatch a plan to infiltrate a group called DEFCON One. They are a group of right-wing white nationalists. They are linked to several bombings all over the country last year. According to FBI intelligence reports, the group is moving to a new phase of their terrorist activities, aiming for a more perfect union.

For the plan to work, Gabrielle and Jerry must pose as a married couple to gain access and trust of the militia (the leader only accepts couples into his ranch compound). The couple goes to a ranch in Wyoming where the militia base is located. The couple almost instantly gains the militia’s trust, no small thanks to Gabriele’s German heritage and impressive storytelling. What follows next is a series of careful covert execution, sacrifices, and a reckoning. 

A More Perfect Union departs from Jungle Rule’s fast-paced narrative and raw action-thriller. In this second book, there is more emphasis on build-up. From Carl’s death to the actual Wyoming operation, Paul Shemella carefully builds the new characters as well as the story. Another remarkable feature of the book is the series of unexpected events (the death of Agent Berk and Susan) and other thrilling moments of the last three chapters. Shemella’s portraits of the white nationalist characters feel authentic. The pre-9/11 timeline and the Wyoming setting both perfectly fit the book’s narrative. 

Though the book is an exciting read from start to finish, we cannot help but notice the absence of a larger force. We feel that Gaby and Jerry along with Berk and Susan are too small a group to take on a very organized organization such as DEFCON One. Others may find the romantic plotlines between main characters as distractions. we think of them as ‘breathers’ well-placed. although it made us miss Carl Malinowski’s character as well. Overall, Paul Shemella’s A More Perfect Union is a decent action-thriller with a very satisfying ending. 

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