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The Kingmaker by Brian Haig


Rating: (Mildly Recommended)


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Be careful what you ask for. We wrote favorable reviews of Brian Haig’s first two novels (Secret Sanction and Mortal Allies). He may have pumped out too many pages in too short a time. His third long novel featuring Sean Drummond, The Kingmaker, leaves readers tired and bored. We cried “uncle” when we finished it. Every now and then, Haig tosses off a swipe at somebody or something that the alert reader perks up and takes notice. Like a character choosing a Jackie Collins’ novel over Edmund Morris’ Dutch. A reference to AOL stock was amusing, especially for those readers who know that Brian’s dad is a longtime AOL board member. Aside from those perky moments, here’s a sample of what to expect in this predictable, non-thriller:

My late flight back to Washington arrived at eleven. I rushed straight home, climbed into bed, and stared at the ceiling for two hours.

The reason, in a word, was Eddie. I finally had an inkling of his strategy, and it frightened the hell out of me. He was working diligently to make his six-month advantage decisive. He had the momentum and virtually a one-way street on knowledge. Even in the hands of a perfectly average attorney those would be almost insurmountable advantages. Eddie, however, was the Babe Ruth of Army law.                             

If I didn't find a line of defense, and damn quick, I'd be trapped in a fog of ignorance when Eddie called with his deal. Even if Morrison did everything they claimed, I obviously couldn't admit that to Eddie. I needed something plausible—not necessarily persuasive, just . . . plausible. So what did I have?

Morrison claimed he was framed, and no matter how overused that line was, or how suspect, it still represented a usable alibi. The problem was, it was a possibility that cut two ways. Framed by someone on our side? Or by someone on Russia's side? And why? Because Morrison knew something and needed to be taken out? A plain and simple grudge? For sport? No small details, these.

It was even possible that this was a particularly excruciating instance of mistaken identity. The government knew it had a mole; it just pinned the tail on the wrong donkey. How do you prove that?

The last possibility was that Morrison had done some sloppy things that were being blown extravagantly out of proportion. Give or take a little, that's exactly what happened to Wen Ho Lee. Depending on how incriminating those things were, it could still be a catastrophic problem. Did he just forget to close and lock his safe a few times when he left the office at night? Or did he accidentally leave a bundle of Top Secret documents lying on Boris Yeltsin's desk?

There could be other possibilities, but these were the three that passed the stink test, which, as a wise old law professor of mine defined it, simply meant they stank less than other theories. When operating on conjecture and instinct, this is what legal theology boils down to.

Katrina was in the office when I arrived the next morning, and pacing in the corner was the inimitable Imelda, blowing bubbles with her lips and inspecting the boxes cluttered all over our office, lmelda is very protective of her domain and, like most career Army sergeants, has a tendency to be maniacally prickly about neatness.

She stopped pacing and flapped her arms, threateningly. "Who made this friggin' mess?"

"Eddie. He's got a couple of hundred lawyers and investigators cramming every piece of paper they can get into boxes. We've gotten three truckloads already. We expect more."

She kicked a box. "Asshole."

Exactly. I then led her and Katrina into the office, where I briefed them on what our client told me the day before.

If you’re hard pressed for one those legal, military tales, go ahead and read The Kingmaker. Otherwise, find something else to read.

Steve Hopkins, February 27, 2002


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the March 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Kingmaker.htm


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