James W. Huston served as a naval flight officer and is currently a trial officer in an international law firm. It would therefore only be natural that, upon embarking on a career in the writing business, he would pen military, espionage, or legal thrillers. And that is precisely what he has been doing for the past several years. He combines a “been there, done that” perspective with a bright-eyed and clearheaded vision of how the world works --- and the place of the United States in that world --- to create uncanny and seemingly prescient visions not of what might happen, but what almost certainly will happen, and all too soon.
Following 2009’s brilliant MARINE ONE, Huston returns with FALCON SEVEN, which is even better than its predecessor. The inspiration and the basis for the book is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress, yet has received little fanfare. That would be the American Service-Members' Protection Act, which authorizes the President of the United States to use all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any United States or allied personnel imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court. The ICC is a kangaroo court that has unilaterally claimed jurisdiction over undefined war crimes, whether the alleged perpetrators of them are from member nations or not.
The scenario that begins FALCON SEVEN and brings the ICC into play is hair-raising in its plausibility. An American pilot team on a flight mission in Afghanistan is redirected to a target in Pakistan, where, they are told, a meeting between members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban are taking place. Their mission is successful; almost immediately, however, their plane is shot down, the pilots are captured, and, in less time than it takes to tell it, the two Americans are frog-marched into the ICC in The Hague. It turns out that the target was in fact a building that housed and treated war refugees. The attack, which was supposed to hit only enemy combatants, resulted in the deaths of several dozen people.
Jack Caskey, a former Navy SEAL who is currently a criminal defense attorney, is tasked by the National Security Council with defending them, even as a rescue mission is being planned to recover the pilots. As he begins plotting his defense strategy, however, the current President loses his will and calls the whole thing off. With time running out as the scheduled trial date approaches, he must defend the two United States airmen in front of a self-appointed three-judge tribunal that has in effect already made up its collective mind. Caskey --- aided by a somewhat reluctant law school classmate employed by a high-powered law firm (which, interestingly enough, had represented several high-profile prisoners at Guantanamo Bay) and several associates --- brings his experience as a defense attorney to bear as he crosses the globe to investigate several puzzling anomalies in the case, not the least of which is how a transport plane was practically on the site of the airmen’s capture to effect their transfer to the ICC facility.
But a sharp legal mind is not the only tool in Caskey’s skill set. Aided by a former military colleague, he begins formulating a Plan B to rescue the airmen, just in case he is unable to bring about the miracle of obtaining a fair trial for his clients. And when the U.S. government seemingly pulls the rug out from under Caskey at the 11th hour, it looks as if he will have no choice but to implement that plan, no matter the consequences.
Huston’s books demand to be read in one sitting, and FALCON SEVEN is no exception. Not that you’ll notice. You’ll read the novel (especially the last 100 pages) so quickly that you’ll have scorch marks on your corneas. Huston doesn’t just straddle the territory where military, espionage, and legal thrillers meet: with FALCON SEVEN, he owns it.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011