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Minor Speed Bumps Can't Stop This Thriller!
on September 9, 2002
After reading the Publishers Weekly review I was uncertain about diving into a book of over 600 pages. Nevertheless, the sharp-looking cover and intriguing liner notes sucked me into the story...and, boy, am I glad!
Despite a few minor speed bumps, "Mission Compromised" is a fast-paced military thriller. We follow the mission of a Marine, Peter Newman, as he coordinates secretive, UN-appointed teams for quick response in global hotspots. He is particularly motivated to see one team become successful in its assignment to assassinate Aidid, the man responsible for the Mogadishu disaster as documented in "Black Hawk Down." Newman's brother was a victim of the massacre, and Newman wants revenge. He also wants to repair his failing marriage, but has few tools to do so. As the story progresses, other factors--Russian, Iraqi, and American--come into focus and threaten Newman's teams, not to mention his very existence.
"Mission Compromised" is a solid thriller. The scope of the characters and plot never equals the scope of a Tom Clancy novel, but the global ramifications of the story do. To call the plot 'convoluted' is to claim amateur status as a reader of espionage novels. With Joe Musser's co-writing, North communicates clearly and effectively, though never oversimplifying the entanglements of any government operation. North's intimate knowledge of his subject matter adds to the breathlessness of the book, particularly in the last third. Sure, the ponderous military parlance might seem overwhelming, but it also underlines the veracity of the story as a whole.
As for speed bumps? Sections of the story do become evangelistic, but they are tame and far from overwhelming. Characters are believable, but never deeply studied. In fact, the book reads most often with the dispassionate delivery of a nonfiction account; when it does dip into emotionalism, it does so subtly--and managed to catch me off-guard on two separate occasions.
My main question upon completing the last page: Where does fiction end and reality begin? Scary stuff. Maybe I'd be safer not knowing.