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Mortal Allies by Brian Haig


Rating: (Recommended)


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Our favorable review, six months ago, of Brian Haig’s first novel, Secret Sanction, ended with the sentence, “You’ll want him to keep writing, and to consider making Sean Drummond a serial character.” This wish came true, and the new novel, Mortal Allies, is even better than the first. Drummond is rushed from vacation to South Korea to defend an Army officer accused of murdering the son of the Korean defense minister. Drummond was specifically requested for the case by the officer’s counsel, Katherine Carlson, who went through law school winning competing aggressively with Drummond. Haig handles their relationship deftly, and introduces the challenges of the Army dealing with gay soldiers and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The plot momentum encourages readers to look forward to turning new pages. With just under 500 pages, there’s enough page-turning to savor the experience. Here’s an excerpt from early in the book:

I sulked the whole way to my room in the Dragon Hill Lodge. The other three people in the hotel elevator even edged away from me, because my eyes were glowing murderously. I sulk in a very nasty way.
I don’t like being publicly dressed down, especially by a civilian, and even more especially by a civilian woman in the presence of a four-star general. But most especially of all, I don’t like being dressed down by Katherine Carlson. Call me petty, but there it is.
I was well aware of what she’d been up to the past eight years. For one thing, Georgetown University, despite its Catholic heritage, was inexplicable proud of her. Any number of fawning articles had been written about her in the alumni magazines I got in the mail every quarter. For a second thing, her name frequently got mentioned in TIME and Newsweek, not to mention every other prominent magazine or newspaper you could name. This happened almost anytime there was a big military case involving a gay soldier, or a soldier accused of being gay.
See, Katherine Carlson was the legal attack dog of America’s gay culture against the Armed Forces. The ‘Apostle of Gayness,’ she’d been nastily labeled by one right-wing journal that was outraged by her brutal tactics and unswerving persistence. More friendly journals called her ‘William Kunstler in drag.’ She’d handled many dozens of cases, and her trademarks were there for everybody to see. She terrorized the judges and opposing attorneys. She lambasted the military profession. She burned down the courthouses. She didn’t win a lot of cases, because the laws were written against her. So she was a legal Sisyphus, fiercely rolling that big rock up that long hill, again and again. That was okay with her, though. She didn’t really intend to win. She just wanted to make damned sure that every time the military won, it was a bloody, Pyrrhic victory. She was a brilliant theoretician and a canny tactician. She slashed and burned in court, and she tried her cases in the press, and America’s journalistic corps loved her for it.”

When you read Mortal Allies, you’ll get to know Katherine Carlson better, and see dimensions to Sean Drummond that weren’t revealed in Secret Sanction. Like me, you’ll probably look forward to the next Brian Haig novel, whether it features Drummond or not.

Steve Hopkins, June 12, 2002


ă 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the July 2002 issue of Executive Times


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