Bantam, Mar 2003, 23.95, 360 pp.
US Ranger Ned Rourke wanted to be the best he could be when he served in the Gulf War and took a bullet in Africa. With pressure from his wife to come home, Ned leaves the military he loves to accept a civilian sales representative job for Haplon Systems, a firm that sells military merchandise, mostly arms, to terrorists and mercenaries.
Ned obtains a big sale at a trade show at about the same time someone kills his competitor and former West Point roommate Dmitri Spandos. Although the police think it is a freak accident from a misfired range bullet, Ned thinks Dmitri was assassinated due to his role as a covert Pentagon operative tracking illegal arms exports to enemy powers and terrorists. Angry with himself for being one of those peddlers and seeking revenge for his buddy, Ned goes after the smugglers because honor is at stake even at the possible cost of losing Fiona.
Setting the stage is critical for this expose undercover tale, but that also leads to a slower pace. Those readers who get over the shock of the crisp foreign sales (ever wonder where the weapons come from?) will become engrossed in a deep condemnation of a corrupt system. The warning story line works because Ned displays the best of the army adhering to the values though he knows the price could be all else he cherishes. The action picks up towards the middle when the novel switches gear into more of an action thriller. Fans will appreciate Grant Sutherland's eye opening cautionary tale even while sales continue to put the troops in jeopardy.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner