Dan Lenson becomes the man with the “football”—that ever-present briefcase containing presidential nuclear codes.
Still recovering from the nuclear attack that sank his destroyer (The Command, 2004), Commander Lenson faces formidable challenges as he tries to find his balance in Washington, working closely with a Clintonesque president thoroughly detested by the military establishment. The Navy has assigned Dan to the small anti-drug task force working directly under the National Security Advisor. It’s a thankless job, far from the work the officer expected to do—identifying and neutralizing the looming threat of nuclear terrorism. Setting aside his reservations, Lenson steers his motley handful of aides into the narcoturbulence and quickly counters a move by a drug lord that would have undermined a reasonable Colombian administration. But as usual, Lenson’s decisive action seems only to have increased the suspicion with which his higher-ups regard him. Things are equally cloudy on the home front. Lenson’s beautiful, higher-ranking wife, Blair, spends as much time as Lenson does away from their suburban home. Then Dan is abruptly assigned to the spooky duty of guarding the nuclear football for President De Bari. The shallow, sneaky president, the first Italian-American in the Oval Office, has been cutting deep into the military budget, spending the peace bonus rendered by the collapse of the Soviet Union on domestic priorities. He’s also been carrying on his infamous extramarital affairs, and evidence suggests that Lenson’s wife may be in presidential target range. Throughout, Poyer inserts cryptic electronic conversations among unknown parties who are steering someone toward an assassination job.
A gloomy story, but Poyer remains the most thoughtful of the military-thriller set and a master of authentic detail.