Imagine being arrested for a murder that you might have witnessed but not sure whether you committed. Imagine drinking to the extent that you black out by the alcohol intake and you long term memory is impaired and your inability to recall the past or an event creates more than just amnesia but confusion and difficulty remembering the event in this case murder after it happened. What would happen if this happened if you were found unconscious in your car that was wrecked in an accident? What if you paid a visit to a patient and the patient was a powerful Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and this same Chairman was found dead in the same garage that you car was in and where your unconscious body was found? Dr. Lou Welcome receives a call from Dr. Gary McHugh one that would cause him to end a conversation about his own career and rush to his friend’s house. Dr. Lou Welcome is a recovering alcoholic and now works at Physicians Wellness and helps doctors regain their medical licenses. Some of the doctor’s clients are recovering from not just alcohol abuse but some from substance or drug abuse, mental illnesses or behavioral problems. While Lou is concerned about his lack of clients and the fact that the head of the facility seems to be sending clients in a different direction other than his, when confronting him he learns about his friend’s problem and what he finds out when he arrives there will definitely give him more than just pause for thought.
As we learn more about his relationship with the Congressman’s wife we also learn more about his relationship with his own. Cold, without any feelings emanating Missy McHugh enters, speaks and then leaves. As we meet Sarah Cooper the attorney that will handle his case and the clash between Lou and Sarah is evident from the start and her resentment quite apparent.
Hidden with this plot is a second one that deals with a unit in the military called Mantis. Mantis is the most decorated unit in the military and hundreds of marines want to be part of that unit and even more an operation that they are hoping to be qualified for after the many tests required to see which men would be selected for Operation Talon and two in particular Staff Sergeants Bucky Townsend and Fenton Morales would do anything to make sure they qualified. Would you go through a rigorous test, climbs obstacles and chance being shot at with live ammunition? What if you did all of this and did not get accepted? What happens if you are? How does this connect to the murder still remains to be seen?
Emily Welcome is a teen that has a definite mind of her own. Boxing is what she wants to take up and entering the gym where her father works out is just the beginning. Getting to know Emily the author brings to light what happens when divorce is in the picture, step parents are not that receptive to the other children and one teen struggles with where she wants to be. How this is handled is quite clever, as you will learn when you meet Diversity. The rest you will have to read for yourself.
We meet more of the players at the funeral for the Congressman. Detective Christopher Bryzinski’s back-story is revealed and we learn more his feelings about funerals and the fact that he was there for one purpose. Taking pictures of those attending the funeral seemed like a waste of time to him when they thought they had the killer, namely Gary McHugh. But, the real story was not only the murder but also the affair Gary was having with the late Congressman’s wife. So, why when Lou meets with the Congressman’s wife does she think Gary killed him and what strategy would his legal team use to get him off? Why didn’t the police want to look any further than Gary? What if they missed something? What if his wife shot him? What about the ballistics data and would they come into play? Their job was just to supply any form of reasonable doubt to get him off. But, did they care if he was really innocent? When approaching Sarah who is supposed to be the lead counsel the senior partner is concerned about her ability to defend a doctor. We hear her inner most thoughts about Lou Welcome and the reader wonders if keeping her on the case is showing sound judgment.
Lou’s investigation seems to be heading in more a direct direction than the legal team’s or even the police. As he checks the garage where the body was found and then the Congressman’s office he uncovers something that just might tip the hands of justice or in this case injustice. But, what he uncovers on a CD will explain the link between the Mantis Unit and the Congressman. The Congressman’s son was killed in Afghanistan saving the lives of other marines. The Mantis Unit is the most powerful and toughest unit whose budget is being cut and whose manpower and weaponry are being cut. So, what is the message that was being sent to him by the Colonel in charge of the Unit? Just who are the Palace Guards and what happens when you go against what the head of Mantis wants?
Then we learn more about the Congressman, his relationship with the Secretary of Defense and the pressure being placed on one detective to make sure the Secretary is apprised of everything related to the Congressman’s murder. But, when Lou hands the police a solid piece of evidence and Gary’s lawyer learns about it what happens will or should surprise the reader and definitely make you wonder whose side everyone is on.
Cover-ups, deceit, lies and deceptions are just part of what’s attached to this murder and who’s behind it still remains to be seen. But sometimes we get too close to the truth and things take a different turn as Lou tries to help find the real killer, finds the police stonewalling him at every turn, the evidence he gives them purposely lost, and his apartment ransacked. Lou is persistent and will not give into to fear or pressure as the relates to the late Congressman’s wife the truth behind his first visit, what he found and the help he needs in order to exonerate a friend.
As the pieces in this tightly fit chain begin to solder together we learn more about the Congressman’s cutbacks, the pressure put upon him by the Mantis Unit and the message delivered to make him reconsider his decisions. When approaching Mark Colston’s best friend to find out more about the Mantis Unit and the Palace Guards the response he gets is anything but what he expected. How far will these men go to protect their unit? What happens when Lou meets with this man will he get the truth or will he become the next casualty? Just who can he trust? Even his boss Filstrap is weary of McHugh and although most people think it is innocent until proven guilty in this case the opposite seems to hold true. As Lou meets with someone named Papa Steve we learn more about Wyatt Brody, the Palace Guards and just how dangerous this man is and the studies that he conducted in neurochemistry. But, the meeting with Papa Steve was informative and his reasons for wanting to get Brody revealed as we meet Sarah next hoping to find out more about the connection to the murder and the robbery at Reddy Creek. Added in is the murder of Hector Rodriquez one of the members of Mantis who got too close for his own good.
When Lou decides to follow the major players involved what he learns clarifies why the Congressman was killed, who wanted him out of the way and what the trade offs with a drug cartel were. Then, the hidden truth behind the Mantis Unit is revealed and their mission: Operation Talon explained. This will not only give you chills and when you learn more from his discussion with Sarah you will find out about the link to what they have been creating for the soldiers related to his research and fear plus the extra added thing they are trading. No money changes hands but the two things exchanged are quite deadly. But, when the links start forming in a chain of sequential events where it leads is quite compelling. Just how high up in the government this goes you won’t believe. What is significant about the drugs for arms trade you won’t believe? Who killed the Congressman and who killed someone close to a reporter trying to investigate what happened at Reddy Creek? An ending that is so explosive only author Michael Palmer can deliver it. Operation Talon just what is the rationale behind it? Whose career will go up in gun smoke if it’s stopped? What happens when two military men come face to face with one lawyer and one reporter that will stop at nothing to clear one man, get justice for many who were killed and stop a mission that would cost more than just many lives? Just whose political careers just might end and where will the final shots be fired? Political Suicide: in more ways than one. Deceptions, deceits, cover ups, terrorist plots, powerful drugs and arms at the root of one man’s desire to protect Americans. What will happen if Operation Talon succeeds? Find out when you read the surprise ending and learn who killed the Congressman, why and the final truth behind the most powerful conspiracy. Dr. Lou Welcome is one man you definitely want for a friend and whose determination, honesty and creative ways of handling difficult situations make him a character you hope Michael Palmer brings back in his next novel. Fran Lewis: reviewer
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