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Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: Man in the Middle by Brian Haig

When you listen to a lot of audiobooks, those in a series tend to take on the characteristics of a particular reader, especially if h/she is well suited to a given author. I’m a devoted fan of the Sean Drummond character invented by Brian Haig who has been narrated primarily by Scott Brick. The narrator becomes Drummond. Brick captures all the nuances of Drummond’s humor. LJ Ganser is fine, just takes some getting used to if you are accustomed to Brick, but he often reads the wiseacre passages so endearing to Drummond fans too flatly.

Drummond is now a Lt. Colonel, still in the JAG, but assigned to the CIA in a special projects group and he’s assumed the role of an FBI agent to infiltrate the investigation into the suicide/homicide of a man with lots of classified access, Clifford Daniels, and the man about to be outed as a major force in promoting the invasion of Iraq.

The scene eventually shifts to Iraq where the plot gets thinner and the content more wordy. Haig engages in digressions that often have little to do with the story, and sometimes the point he wants to make regarding the war gets muddled. For example, he goes to great lengths to portray the dangers of Fallujah yet Drummond and his escorting contractors have little difficulty making it through town to their target where a great fuss is made over Bien’s conduct in identifying the man they want to kidnap (but only after a ridiculous banter over who gets to go that was really silly). Their attempt must be made speedily because the Marines are about to obliterate the town with artillery. Shift to a hospital where much is made of the injuries to soldiers from roadside bombs without even a consideration given to the effect of artillery on non-combatants.

One interesting historical mention was the terrorist bombing in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in which a truck bomb was placed next to an eight-story structure that housed members of the coalition forces being used to enforce the no-fly zone in Iraq. Close to 500 coalition servicemen were killed or wounded as the whole side of the building collapsed. Precursors of many attacks to come.

In spite of a constant refrain that as members of the Army, both Drummond and Bian Tran, his female MP major sidekick follow orders, they consistently avoid doing what they have been ordered to do, all the while proclaiming the rightness of the cause.

The book resonates best when Sean is dealing with the bureaucracy and its silliness, less so when he meanders all over in assorted sermons/lectures. There are some seriously incredible plot twists and devices. But I do like some of the characters in spite of their flaws hence three instead of two stars. Haig (and his editor) need to learn the difference between imply and infer.
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