It's always a pleasure to watch a good writer become a great writer
and then become an 'A' List writer, someone who goes from eliciting
reactions such as "I'll recommend that to a friend" to "I can't
wait for their next book" to the all-important "They'll never write
a better book than this!" After reading LIBERTY, I am convinced
that Stephen Coonts has reached that pinnacle.
Coonts has crafted an extremely riveting character in Jake Grafton,
a natural leader who unabashedly loves his country and who isn't
afraid to take the heat or dirty his hands if that is what is
necessary to get the job done. Coonts has surrounded Grafton with a
cast of interesting secondary characters who don't overshadow him
but are capable of carrying the action for extended periods, should
the need arise. What Coonts does so well --- and has always done
well --- is to take his creations and drop them into the middle of
a crisis that seems in turn to have been pulled directly out of
tomorrow's newspaper headlines.
Coonts takes all of these elements and brings them up a few notches
in LIBERTY. Moslem terrorists plot to take four nuclear warheads
--- not one, but four --- and detonate them at separate targets.
Grafton gets wind of the plot from a somewhat surprising source.
The President of the United States gives him unprecedented
authority to hunt 'em down --- and the chase is on. The team has to
hunt down four different warheads in four different places; they're
being put into place by four separate terrorist cells. This is a
brilliant plot device: not one disaster in the making, but four,
any one of which will have repercussions far beyond their radius of
damage. Grafton and his team, accordingly, can do nothing by
halves. And his team isn't really a team. The different law
enforcement agencies that Coonts is supervising are supposed to
work together, but as Coonts so eloquently puts it, each is
concerned with guarding its own rice bowl. They're working, all
right, but more often than not, they are working at cross-purposes.
And did I neglect to mention that one of them has been infiltrated?
And it's not by the terrorists, either.
Coonts throws in enough subplots, twists and excitement to carry
three or four novels, making LIBERTY an extremely complex novel.
But Coonts's grasp is the equal of his reach. He never gets lost
and, as a result, never leaves his reader hanging or confused. He
will, however, leave you with your heart in your throat. LIBERTY is
what was called, in a grander and wiser age, a "ripping yarn."
There can be no higher compliment.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011