Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Dr. Lou Welcome stumbles upon an elite group of soldiers called Mantis, led by the diabolical Wyatt Brody, while trying to help out a friend.  The friend, Gary McHugh, is another physician who, like Lou, has a history of substance abuse.  Now McHugh is a murder suspect in the death of a Congressman whose wife McHugh was having an affair with.  At first, Sarah Cooper, McHugh's attorney, finds Lou's efforts to uncover another suspect intrusive, if not downright counter-productive, but eventually it becomes apparent that Lou can be useful in some situations.  There's also a crooked cop with some incriminating secrets and a journalist who was blinded when she became a threat to Mantis.  OK, it's formulaic, and this isn't the first thriller about a rogue military unit.  What distinguishes a Michael Palmer thriller is that it has a medical angle, and this time we have a drug, akin to methamphetamine, that works as an antidote to fear, developed for military purposes.  I had a few minor issues with this element of the plot.  I know soldiers are trained to follow orders, but wouldn't drinking a cocktail of unknown ingredients at least raise a few soldiers' eyebrows?   I guess dissent would get a man ousted from the unit.  This whole scene reminded me of the Jim Jones Guyana massacre.  Plus, Mantis's mission requires more than fearlessness; it requires suppression of a basic instinct that trumps fear:  self-preservation.  This may not be Michael Palmer's best novel, but sometimes a beach read in January is just the ticket.

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