The Jericho Sanction
Did anyone have a college entrance essay about writing your own obituary? I did. I can't remember exactly what I wrote, but I do remember that I wondered during the process if it was kosher to celebrate my own achievements or not. Oliver North clearly has no such qualms. In his first novel (penned with ghostwriter Joe Musser), MISSION COMPROMISED, North inserted himself as a heroic deus ex machina whose shadowy appearances both save and inspire protagonist Peter Newman, Major USMC. In his second novel, THE JERICHO SANCTION, North inserts his historical self just once --- but this time around, Peter Newman is his stand-in.
Newman, his wife Rachel and their toddler son James have been living and working at a Christian community in Jerusalem since the surprise end of MISSION COMPROMISED. When his cover is blown, Newman finds himself involved in a new international operation. Unfortunately, the mole who reveals that Newman is still alive also alerts arch-villain General Dmitri Komulakov, and in the ensuing imbroglio, both Rachel and her friend, Dyan Rotem, are kidnapped.
At first, no one is sure why both women were taken --- because the pregnant Dyan's husband is Major Ze'ev Rotem, an officer with the special-forces-like Israeli Sayeret Duvdevan, and he has his own secrets. Soon it doesn't matter that Rachel was the real target, because Russian plans to sell three stolen Soviet-era nuclear warheads to Iraq means that the state of Israel puts in place its highest alert: the Jericho Sanction. The Jericho Sanction indicates that Israel's nuclear weapons are ready for deployment.
As before, it seems there is only one person who can save the world (hmmm, does this have Divine connotations?): Peter Newman. Even when the dilemmas are multiplied (abducted wife, imminent nuclear holocaust, nemesis running around free), even when diplomatic and military channels become hopelessly messed up, even when he hardly knows the language or terrain, Peter Newman is the answer. The number of times Newman is told some form of "It's just you, now" gets to be a bit much.
On the plus side, THE JERICHO SANCTION delivers a lot of action without too many unnecessary stops and starts. The pacing is better than it was in MISSION COMPROMISED and the characters more believable. What North tried to do in his first book was certainly honorable; he wanted to portray two people coming to newfound faith in Christ and thereby saving their marriage (and, of course, the world). However, as North and Musser must have realized, delineating such a personal and internal process is very tough in the context of saving the world. Now that Peter and Rachel Newman have the courage of their convictions, it's easier for their creators to allow them to act.
However, there's enough about the slightly mysterious Christian group known as the Brethren, whose members seem to be in all echelons of different countries' power structures and recognize each other by toting metal fish to indicate that even if this book is about one man singlehandedly saving his wife (and the world), future books may hold more of a faith-based conflict.
Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick on August 31, 2004