Hypothetical-war specialist Coyle (Bright Star, 1990; Sword Point, 1988) takes his recurring cast of characters to the Mexican border, where a coup d`Çtat to the south and the usual political bungling to the north make armed conflict inevitable. Thirteen army officers, fed up with decades of corruption and bungling under the ruling Revolutionary Party, have decapitated the Mexican government with one well-placed presidential plane crash. The Council of Thirteen, as they call themselves, speedily and rather brutally set about carving the rot from the Mexican political and governmental structure. The poor and the middle class love the new cleanliness; the druglords and the paid-for police hate it. The US, caught once again without useful intelligence, fails to understand the nature of the revolution and falls victim to manipulation by the druglords, who create chaos with terrorist acts on the border. The only American who seems to have the faintest idea of what's going on is TV reporter Jan Fields, whose good fortune has placed her in Mexico City at the time of the coup. As Fields's reports air, her lover, Lt. Col. Scott Dixon, heads with his troops for southern Texas, unhappily aware that he is about to take part in a war that can bring only pain and embarrassment to his country. Among his troops is Lt. Nancy Kozak, the Army's first female combat officer, who is about to find out what men have long known: war is extremely confusing and thoroughly interesting. Coyle has always been worth reading for his intelligent and authentic portrayals of the military messes we may find ourselves in before long. This time, he has sacrificed a little military detail for the sake of general readability. It's a sensible and worthwhile compromise.