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The Kingmaker    by Brian Haig order for
by Brian Haig
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2002)
Hardcover, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Brian Haig just keeps on getting better in this series starring JAG lawyer Sean Drummond. It began with the investigation of a Bosnian atrocity in Secret Sanction and continued to address the topic of gays in the military (with of course more mayhem) in Korea, in Mortal Allies. There is always tension between Sean and a strong, attractive, female attorney (a different one in each book), and he has the grouchy support of the amazing Sergeant First Class Imelda Pepperfield.

This time, Drummond is persuaded by an old flame, Grace Kelly lookalike Mary, to take on the high-profile defense of her husband, Brigadier General William T. Morrison, an over-ambitious career officer, who has been accused of years of spying for the Russians. Sean sums it up as 'a case I didn't want, representing a client I couldn't stand, opposing an attorney I dreaded.' Of course, the first person that he turns to is Imelda, wanting on his side her 'razor-sharp mind, two master's degrees, and the moral ambiguity of a Mack truck.'

Urgently needing a Russian-speaker on his team (the prosecution has been working with the CIA on the case for months), and finding them in short supply, Sean ends up hiring civilian attorney Katrina Mazorski, with 'skintight, hip-hugging, black leather pants, a halter top with a black bra peeking out, maroonish lipstick, a silver bead in her left nostril, and a silver hoop poking out of her naked navel.' Surprisingly (both being wiseasses) they make a good team.

As they begin the challenging task of assembling a defense, there are run-ins with the CIA, a gunfight during an investigative trip to Moscow, and meetings with a high level Russian security agent, who speaks of a powerful cabal that has been manipulating events in his country for decades. In Russia, Drummond discovers that no one likes his client, but that those who know him well enough to dislike him, also have trouble believing in his guilt. He deals with local 'bullycrats' and encounters a 'doctor named Josef Mengele'.

Back in the States, both attorneys come under fire and face a conspiracy that makes bodies disappear, and that reaches high into the corridors of power. Out of their depth, they struggle for survival, fighting both an elusive enemy and their own stubbornness. Fortunately, Sean has Imelda as insurance and 'Thirty years as an Army sergeant is the equivalent of a Ph. D. in making others suffer' on his behalf.

In Kingmaker, Brian Haig gives his readers a plot that John Grisham might have written if he had ever got together with John Le Carr9. But the constant flow of quips and witticisms (usually at Drummond's expense) reminds me of the style of a writer I like even more than these two masters, that is Richard Powell, author of the hilarious Pioneer Go Home. If you haven't shared an adventure with Sean Drummond yet, I envy you the experience.

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