Wednesday, June 2, 2010

By Order of the President, by W.E.B Griffin

By Order of the President (Presidential Agent)A number of years ago, I read a couple of different military fiction series by Griffin, The Corps and The Brotherhood of War. They were amazingly well researched and quite entertaining. I happened to see a book in the New Books section at the library in a new series by him, and decided to start at the beginning of the series, so I checked the old fiction shelves and found this one, which begins a series, Presidential Agent.
The story begins with a 727 airplane being stolen in Africa. The US intelligence agencies report the theft, and the subsequent disappearance of the craft. Given the close proximity, in the timeline of the story, to the events of 9/11, they are directed to find out what has become of it, and what purpose the thieves intend for it.
The President is not confident in the information he's getting back from the various agencies, so he sends a special agent, an aide to the Secretary of Homeland Security, to check into the facts on the ground. The aide's name is Charley Castillo, an Army major. As he investigates, he finds some definite issues with the intelligence getting back to the President, and uncovers a plot to fly the plane, loaded with fuel, into the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
I don't know how accurate any of the details about military history and protocols are in this book, but there are plenty of them to keep military history buffs guessing. There is an interesting mix of actual people from recent headlines, such as Colin Powell, and fictional characters, such as Secretary of Homeland Security, Matt Hall, that I occasionally had to stop and check myself for senior moments.
As is SOP with Griffin's novels, the story jumps around quickly in time and location, and it's sometimes confusing to figure out, when starting a new chapter, whether you're on the current timeline, or in a flashback that explains the background of our protagonist, Charley Castillo, or the connections between various other main characters. I realized, suddenly, as I was reading it, that there's a great deal of similarity in this style of storytelling between Griffin and Richard Hooker (ghosted in the later books by William Butterworth) M*A*S*H* series.
The novel starts a bit slowly, but as the plot thickens and we finally get most of the background details out of the way, it gains speed, and turns into a fun read. I'll probably have to pick up the next book or two in the series, when time permits.

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