Beloved Enemy by Eric Van Lustbader is the fifth Jack McClure thriller, in which the Secretery of Homeland Security is killed and Jack must decide whether to help the woman he loves or to destroy her as an enemy of the state (available September 10, 2013).
In this installment, Lustbader keeps the action switching back and forth between Jack McClure, an agent known as Redbird, and directors of various intelligence agencies. The shifts in POV are rapid, keeping the action flowing forward, but it doesn’t come across as simply switching off. The view of Jack and Redbird and others are much like pawns in a chess game while the directors are clearly higher up in the food chain trying to dictate the moves on the board.
Like many people in power, though, especially when it comes to intelligence agencies, there is distrust all around and an air of one-upmanship among these people who—ostensibly—should be working towards a common goal, and it escalates to the point where they implicate one another in front of the President of the United States.
To him, those outside the military command structure were basically dumb and uninformed. Overlords, such as he, were needed to save the private sector from its own stupidity. He was blind to the irony of his mission—how the very act of keeping secrets kept civilians uninformed.
“Dennis had adequate protection,” Dickinson protested. “No one could have known, let alone guessed, that he and his security detail would be shot to death by his own man, Jack McClure.”
“You should have known, Dicky” The nasty edge to Marshall’s voice became razor-sharp. “It was your job to know these things.” Tim Malone, director of the FBI, stirred uneasily as he turned to address G. Robert Krofft, director of the CIA. “Speaking of ‘should have known,’ I can’t for the life of me fathom what your boys were doing at Dennis Paull’s house,” he said.
“When the director of DHS gets shot by one of his own men,” Krofft said frostily, “it’s bound to be a matter of national security.”
As is to be expected, the intrigue doesn’t end at the barely contained animosity these people have for one another. Nothing is as sacrosanct as protecting each agency’s respective secrets, leading to conspiracies among the men in order to protect their interests. Moreover, if they can get ahead of the others in the process, so much the better.
What Lustbader does well here is make such cloak-and-dagger meetings not the stuff of abandoned warehouses, darkened alleys, or ultra-secure rooms, but something decidedly more commonplace.
Kinkaid Marshall and G. Robert Krofft sat across from each other in a Dunkin’ Donuts on K Street NW, but neither of them cracked a smile at the thread-worn joke. It might seem odd for the directors of the DCS and the CIA to be taking their early breakfast at a fast-food shop, but they both knew that they would remain undetected and anonymous in the continuous foot traffic that headed in and out. Over coffee and powdered donuts, they discussed the president’s emergency briefing.
Such meetings are the tip of the iceberg, resulting in plots against plots within plots and still other plots. You can skip along for the ride or you can chart out the various moves by each party, which results in the tangled and authentic web of politics, intelligence, and the law that somehow functions in an uneasy alliance in Washington, D.C.
All the while, the ones in the thick of it, Jack McClure, Redbird, and Annika, attempt to pursue their personal agendas in the process of their larger mission objectives, all while trying not to get trampled by the powers that play their chess games. Unfortunately, as is often the case when it comes to so much intrigue, even the most innocuous of figures, such as the navigator who helps you out of the country can be part of the plot.
When he was finished, he slipped out his mobile and punched in a number. He whistled a different tune, as if by doing so he could conjure up the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz.
“Yes?” the female voice said in his ear.
“We’re in Berlin.”
“He’s with you?”
“Safe and sound, like I said.”
“Has he deplaned?”
“Uh-uh. We’ve volunteered to continue on.”
“That won’t be a problem for you?”
“Nah. We have the locals greased—have done for years, it was seen to. No worries there.”
“Has he told you where he wants you to take him?”
“Then he knows about Legere.”
“It would seem so.” Hitch picked at a piece of lint on his trouser leg. “And that Connaston was killed.”
“Good. Keep him safe until you arrive in Bangkok.”
Hitch stared at himself in the mirror. “And then?”
“Then,” the voice at the other end said, “he’s on his own.”
Beloved Enemy takes intrigue to an entirely new level with rapid transitions, lots of action, and a free-for-all among opposing agents and agency directors.
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Andy Adams is an adjunct professor of English at various colleges in the Phoenix area. He has an affectation for fedoras as they complement his villainous goatee. He’s been known to poke his head onto Twitter @A3Writer, but he’s never been big into birds. He blogs at A3writer.com about writing, teaching, and the conquest of fictional worlds—they’re more fun than the real world.
Read all posts by Andy Adams for Criminal Element.