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Nuclear Option

In 1984 SYLVIA JENSEN was a heavy drinker having an affair with Norton, an atomic veteran and fellow activist in the nuclear disarmament movement. In 2019, at seventy-seven and with her activist days behind her, Sylvia is protecting her hard-won recovery and simple lifestyle until Norton’s troubled son Corey draws her back into the fight. To save his life and those of countless others, she and her old friend investigative reporter J.B. Harrell must unravel a decades old mystery and face the truth of the nuclear age before it is too late.

Best Mystery/Thriller in 2020-2021 by Reader Views Reviewer's Choice Awards!

What Readers are saying:


Only an experienced social worker with a heart for social justice could have written a thriller of this caliber with a protagonist who balances integrity and idealism as she attempts to save lives and herself.  —Carol Masters, You Can’t Do That! Marv Davidov, Non-Violent Revolutionary (2009), The Peace Terrorist (1994), Dear Descendent (2019).

Some books entertain, some inform, some inspire. Nuclear Option does all three. —Beth Brunton, Earth Care not Warfare

Kudos to Van Soest for conveying, in a bite-size and very personalized form that we can take in, the difficult and scary information about the nuclear threat we need in order to save the world.  —Marybeth Gardam, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom U.S. Section Committee 

Few writers are more deft at intertwining mystery with social issues of urgent concern than Dorothy Van Soest. Nuclear Option, her latest novel, reunites that unlikely duo, Sylvia Jensen and J.B. Harrell, as they investigate how a lethal past, both personal and national, detonates into the present. With results that are explosive!  —Carol Mossman, Author, The Narrative Matrix, Politics and Narratives of Birth, Writing with a Vengeance



This thrill-packed mystery immerses us in the world of ordinary people who won’t go quietly into oblivion. 

—Charlie Cooper, Democracy and Justice Advocate, Baltimore, MD



Nuclear Option is a love story and a thriller in its own right. Anti-war activists will be intrigued with the struggles within the antinuclear movement to find right strategies and the challenging ethical decision the heroine is compelled to make. Enjoyable and thought provoking; highly recommended. —Dan Gilman, Past President, Seattle Veterans For Peace 


How do you reconcile memories of the distant past with the realities of the present? Dorothy Van Soest guides us through Sylvia Jensen’s haunting encounters with people and events that force both her and the reader to wonder if we can ever stop challenging the selves we constructed so long ago. —Dr. Louise Krasniewicz, University of Pennsylvania. Author of Nuclear Summer: The Clash of Communities at the Seneca Women’s Peace Encampment.  



Don’t start Nuclear Option unless you have sufficient time to read this absorbing and twisting mystery from the first page to the last! Dorothy Van Soest once again keeps you on the edge of your chair as you ride the curves and dangers of this stirring book. —Frederick L. Ahearn, Professor Emeritus and Former Dean, National Catholic School of Social Service, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC



During the 1950s and ‘60s, thousands of US military personnel were deliberately and secretly exposed to ionizing radiation from nuclear bomb tests. The struggles of actual radiation survivors are mirrored in the characters in Nuclear Option . . . and fuel the outrage that drives the novel’s action. . . intriguing characters and ominous developments threaten a tsunami as the novel surges to a dramatic finish that leaves us with a glimmer of hope.  —Priscilla Ellis, Ph.D. co-author, “Atomic Veterans and Their Families: Responses to Radiation Exposure”. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 60 (3), July 1990



Sleuth Sylvia Jensen’s tortuous inner tension is captured in a vivid action-packed story with atmospheric detail that plunges you right into the middle of her friendships, romance and protests. A must read!  —Betsy Bell Author of Open Borders: A Personal Story of Love, Loss, and Anti-war Activism  



The twists and turns of plot keep revealing deeper realities that will force you to continually re-think your reactions to the characters as the story draws together multiple layers of suffering caused by our military policies and practices, especially some nuclear ones that may surprise you. Expect to stay up late reading this captivating and thought-provoking mystery. —Rev. David Whitten Smith, Emeritus Professor of Theology and Founding Director of Justice and Peace Studies Program, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN



An unfolding mystery so engrossing that I didn’t realize until after I turned the last page that I’d had a thorough political education. Van Soest spins a terrific tale while steadily, imperceptibly elevating the reader’s knowledge of a most compelling issue. Not many mysteries leave me thoroughly entertained and ready to join a movement! —Mary Bricker-Jenkins, Professor Emerita, Temple University



A socially responsible murder mystery! Following a trip through the landscape of the 1980s anti-nuclear movement, Nuclear Option draws you in. But it’s not your typical murder mystery. It’s a mystery of epic proportions. —Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation  



. . . an ingenious plot that evolves into a thriller as its characters are forced to grapple with and make choices about violent aims and military madness. It is a timely novel today when the nuclear option is a very real threat to all planetary life.  —Kathy Kelly, Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence  



I LOVED this novel! Weaving an intriguing story of two intertwined times with the facts of the nuclear cleanup mess and cover-up in the Marshall Islands was brilliant!  —Helen Jaccard, Veterans For Peace Golden Rule Project Manager


Nuclear Option sheds light on an unconscionable secret atomic veterans were forced to keep, the outcome of this catastrophic time still bleeding into society today. When I finished reading it I literally sat motionless, stunned by what I had just consumed, thinking how is this the first novel I’ve read by Dorothy Van Soest? This is a novel of excellence, written by an author gifted with extraordinary talent. —Reader Views


Nuclear Option is rooted in real sources and possibilities, its facts astonishing enough that an embellished climax seems believable. Best of all Van Soest delivers hope to temptations of despair... Savor it and share it. —Rickey Gard Diamond, Author, Screwnomics

Readers interested in a strong woman-centered suspense thriller centered on individual responsibility will find Nuclear Option an unusual, astute read that brings to life the revitalized purpose of a single woman who reassesses her choices and impact upon the modern world. Its story of sacrifices and saving lives will linger in the mind long after sleuth Sylvia Jensen’s final revelations. —D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

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