Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Books: "Chameleon: A Black Box Thriller" By Remi Adeleke


Chameleon: A Black Box Thriller

By Remi Adeleke

William Morrow; hardcover, 368 pages; $30.00; available today, Tuesday, July 25th

Remi Adeleke, the author of acclaimed memoir Transformed, was born in western Africa and, after his father passed away, he moved to The Bronx permanently with his mother and brother. He turned his life around, after many regrettable decisions, when he joined the Navy in 2002 and rose up to be a Navy SEAL.

Remi's successful Navy career lasted until 2016, and he went on to pursue opportunities in business consulting and in the film industry, where he's written, produced, directed, and acted on multiple projects, and appeared on The Plane, Ambulance, 6 Underground, Seal Team, and most recently, the reality series, Special Forces: The Ultimate Test. He holds a BS in organizational leadership and a MS in strategic leadership, both from the University of Charleston West Virginia. He currently lives in Southern California with his wife, Jessica, and their three sons, Cayden, Caleb, and Carter, and daughter, Ciana.

Chameleon is the first installment in Adeleke's electrifying, pulse-pounding Black Box Ops Thriller series, featuring Nigerian-born Kali Kent and the top-secret Black Box program. 

A mysterious South African commando, Lucas Van Groot, begins taking wealthy hostages all over the world, and it appears at first to be a typical ransom gambit. Instead, it becomes apparent that he is not only making a fortune with his "Hostage Inc." venture, but also manipulating worldwide stock markets and causing panic on Wall Street and at the Federal Reserve.

The CIA's most secret special operations branch, Black Box, then enters the picture. It is so surreptitious that not even the Director of the CIA is fully privy to the unit's activities. 

Black Box is comprised of secret agents with highly-skilled agents who perform with precision, and have four specific criteria. Chameleons can transform into myriads of characters, Ghosts are specialists in stealth and surveillance, Wind operatives who are transportation experts, and Aberration spies whose specialty is deep cover for years.

Kali Kent is a Nigerian-born and Bronxite super star in the Black Box program, and he leads the search for Van Groot and his conspiracy of international criminals. Kent soon learns that the South African mastermind is in search of a much-larger prize.

Eventually, Kent and Black Box must stop Van Groot before he executes a worldwide tragedy, but along the way, Kent has to face the demons from his childhood and reflect on the emotional path that made him the Chameleon he is today.

In this excerpt, Adeleke writes of one of Kent's missions where he's transformed himself into a British banker: "LAKE COMO, NORTHERN ITALY - Kali Kent stepped from a black BMW M5, while slipping a bracelet of prayer beads into his suit pocket. He seemed to have gained more weight as he filled out his Brunello Cucinelli charcoal suit with a white silk shirt, no tie, and Christian Loubouin black oxford shoes. The shoes were expensive, but also suitable for running - if you had to.

And the man who was driving the luxury car also seemed to be different in his persona. It was Spencer, but he now appeared to be a faithful chauffeur. An Italian parking attendant motioned to where he should park the vehicle along a row of Mercedes and Ferraris, and said, 'Attenzione, per favore.' Carefully, please. Spencer would be staying with the car.

Kali strode toward the lakeside villa, joining a throng of other arriving guests, all dressed in bespoke suits and gowns. The evening was warm, with breezes drifting off the water and the lights of Varenna across the lake making the tree leaves sparkle like jewels. He paid no mind to the arriving royal blue Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan that contained Jason and Neveah. They were posing as a couple, James and Maggie Corse, the American heirs to an Italian publishing magnate.

'Dark Horse Two, on the X.'

It was Jason's voice and it sounded to Kent like it was inside his head. He was wearing a subminiature receiver buried deep in his ear, as well as a miniature mic disguised as a lapel button.

Vittorio Sietto's villa was an enormous multistory rectangle of pink Pompeii granite with cornice towers and archers' battlements like a medieval castle. There were too many windows to count, with vines and flowers dripping from balcony boxes, and the faux Corinthian columns on the wide entrance portico all had bolted iron arms gripping torches like the Statue of Liberty. The strains of a classical string quartet wafted from the grand entrance, and as Kali walked up one of two curving marble stairways, he could see past the villa's southern corner to the rear of the estate.

There was a wide, semicircular veranda jutting out above an Olympic-size heated swimming pool - the water was steaming like an Icelandic hot spring. Two stone staircases led from either side of the veranda down the pool, where Kali spotted two large men in dark suits - armed security, no doubt - patrolling the grounds. He assumed there were more of them, inside and out.

Vittorio Sietto was a man of means, the founder and CEO of a publicly traded business advisory corporation, Franco International, based in Milan. His friends and associates were international bankers, movie stars, and politicians. Tonight's celebration was for the fiftieth birthday of his beloved wife, Sophia. Kali guessed that with her kind of wealth and a no-stress life, she probably looked forty...

Sietto was tall with a full head of thick gray hair like an Italian film star, an impeccable powder blue suit, and a perpetual tan. He looked to be somewhere in his sixties, and his wife, a raven-haired beauty in a magnificent red Portia and Scarlett cocktail gown, looked considerably younger, just as Kali had predicted. As he arrived at the head of the line, he bowed to Signora Sietto, kissed her hand, then offered his business card to Vittorio.

'Ah! Signor Goodson, what an absolute pleasure,' Vittorio said as he shook Kali's hand. Kali had become Chester Cecil Goodson III, a handsome and rather arrogant British banker, managing director of mergers and acquisitions at Barclays on Artillery Row in London. That's what his ivory business card said, as well as his profile on the bank's website, which was why Vittorio referred to him as such. 'The ambassador insisted we should meet, that we might have interests in common.'

'Well, Ambassador Pennright is terribly kind,' Kent said in a pure British Cambridge accent. 'I'm only dismayed we didn't meet prior to your recommendations to Avio aerospace and all that business with Virgin Galactic.'

Sietto cocked his head. 'Do you think that might not have been a good bet for Avio?'

'Frankly, I think it's a lark,' Kali said. 'Galactic's market cap is hovering around two-point-five billion, with a seventy-five percent share loss over the past twelve months, and only a recent uptick of five-point-four-five percent for a paltry share price of less than ten dollars. Seems to me Richard Branson's selling fantasies, wouldn't you say?'

Sietto laughed, impressed. 'I think he's selling bucket-list rides on rocket ships, and Avio believes he'll make a healthy profit and wants in on the bottom.'

'I agree, sir,' Kali said, 'if that bottom doesn't fall out! However, I don't worry too much about Avio. Their revenue's at nine hundred and seventy-four million. They'll be just fine.' Kali touched his own chest. 'I trust I haven't offended?'

'Not at all,' Sietto said. 'It's always a pleasure to chat with a man of knowledge. And how do you know the ambassador, Signore Goodson?'

'He invites me to hunt on occasion, although I frankly prefer to take my nourishment from Hawksmoor.' Kali's mention of the high-end steak restaurant in London wasn't off the cuff. He knew that Sietto favored the place, because he'd been researching him for days, nonstop.

Sietto smiled. 'We should dine there together on a mutually convenient occasion. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy my little soiree.'

'I certainly shall.' Kent then charmed Signora Sietto with a smile. 'I trust you shall have a memorable thirtieth, signora. And please know that my firm has made a donation to your favorite charitable cause.;

'Grazie!' Signora Sietto laughed at the age compliment, squeezed Kent's arm, and then he was off and dived into the throng.

There were already more than a hundred people milling about the ground-floor salon, with waistcoated waiters carrying silver trays of hors d'oeuvres and champagne. Streamers, balloons, and birthday tinsel were hanging from crystal chandeliers, and the classical quartet in their tuxes and gowns were sitting off to one side in a recessed music alcove that included a grand piano."

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