Huston's third military thriller is also his best as it examines the cost of another hypothetical American reprisal against terrorism, this time with a supersonic fighter-jet pursuit of a bin Laden stand-in to his secret desert fortress.
In what is probably the only thriller series based on a passage of the US Constitution, Huston, a former Navy F-14 flyboy now practicing law, typically has some plucky legal type—here it's a Navy JAG officer aboard an aircraft carrier off the Israeli coast—discover Article 1, Section 8, which gives Congress the legal clout to determine how force should be applied when American interests are threatened abroad. Huston used Section 8 both in his excellent debut (Balance of Power, 1998) and its much less powerful sequel (The Price of Power, 1999); now he employs it to have Congress declare war on a single person, Sheik al-Jabar, who has apparently revived an 11th-century Islamic sect of assassins to commit mayhem against Israel and the US. When one of al-Jabar's attacks against Israel kills a Navy pilot seeking quality time with the beautiful Israeli mystery woman he wants to marry, the pilot's best buddy, Lieutenant Sean Woods, whose father died in a terrorist attack, wants revenge. After discussing his feelings with the carrier's JAG officer, and getting some tips about St. Aquinas's definition of a just war from the ship's chaplain, Woods writes his congressman and, miraculously, gets results. Of course, killing al-Jabar, who hides in ancient fortresses protected by Syria and Iran, will not be easy. While Woods flies spectacular aerial dogfights over Lebanon and Iran, Sami al-Hadad, the NSA's top Arab intelligence analyst, finds evidence that Israel may be using al-Jabar to force the US to declare a war that can't be won.
A thinking man's military thriller, with superb action, crackling hardware-speak, and just enough tragedy to emphasize the emotional price for so much gung-ho American heroism.