St. Martin's, Dec 2007, $24.95
U.S. Navy commander Dan Lenson rejects the strong suggestion that he leave the service on a medical retirement. He is unhappy with his treatment having just saved the Commander in Chief from an assassination attempt (see THE THREAT, not reviewed). Outraging the Congressional Medal of Honor is that the brass assigns him with duties to force him into retiring out of ennui as he no longer is given THE COMMAND assignments.
He is tasked to serve as an observer to a multinational exercise involving South Korea, Japan, Australia, and America off of Korean. Part of his duties is to escort U.S. civilians and retired military personnel and serve as liaison between them and their naval hosts on a South Korean frigate. However, the simple but boring mission turns suddenly potentially deadly when a disabled North Korean submarine is found nearby. They refuse rescue as they prefer to go down with the ship. This disturbs Lenson as he thinks they have something to hide; unaware at that moment how accurate his assessment is as other North Korean subs head to the Sea of Japan with perhaps Kim’s personally autographed nukes; Dan plans to find out though his superiors and the South Korean Navy demand he do nothing except escort duty.
Lenson is terrific as his heroic past proves a handicap when it comes to political appointees and the Naval and DOD brass, who are entrenched bureaucrats seeking their next job while insuring their current position causes no personal harm to their careers. The enemy is unknown yet known as being erratically impulsive so anything can happen. However, as Lenson has learned throughout his naval career, sometimes the real enemy is the guy patting you on the back saying good job Brownie. Contemporary military fiction fans will relish David Poyer’s exciting Korean thriller that spotlights how complex the five decade plus truce is.