A U.S. Department of Commerce investigator travels the world, trying to figure out how and why a military helicopter was illegally sent to Thailand.
Things have been rough for Owen Pangborn lately. His wife is suffering from multiple sclerosis and with two kids in college he has no choice but to return from retirement to a dead-end government job to pay the bills. So when he is called upon to serve under his old U.S. Army mentor Gen. Harmon Dix, now an assistant secretary in the Commerce Department, for a special assignment, Owen sees a unique opportunity to advance. Dix needs Owen’s help to investigate reports that a small, highly maneuverable and well-armed American-made helicopter called the Helix had been spotted going after rebels in Thailand, even though the U.S. government had only approved its sale to Israel. He teams up with a Cuban-American Department of Defense engineer named Tessa Belasco, a beautiful widow for whom Owen soon feels an intense attraction. The two follow clues to Israel and the Far East, but it soon becomes apparent that powerful forces within the United States and abroad would rather the truth about the Helix remain undiscovered. Cero captures the stifling world of government bureaucracy and all the nasty politics therein, but he especially shines when the setting shifts to foreign cities. The author fills these passages with compelling details that bring his exotic locales to vivid life. He sometimes displays a tone deafness to racial matters that might be off-putting to readers—referring to a mixed-race character as a “mulatto,”or mentioning a Chinese character’s “sloe-eyes.” Some early sections plod and the prose is occasionally awkward, but things pick up later as Cero saves most of the intense action for the last act, which culminates in a well-executed finale.
Rough around the edges and occasionally old-fashioned, but smart and well-plotted.