Using the real-life Augusto Pinochet extradition case as a seed for an imaginative plot-line, John J Nance has penned the perfect light-on-the-grey-matter combo legal/political/techno-thriller for you to take along on your next flight over the big pond!
Former US President, John Harris, has been charged by the Peruvian government under a recently ratified treaty - the International Treaty Against Torture - with authorizing the cold-blooded murder of hundreds of civilians during a CIA raid on a Peruvian drug factory. British lawyer, Sir William Stuart Campbell, who has been hired to represent the Peruvian government, makes his first attempt to execute an arrest warrant for Harris as he sits aboard a Boeing 737 about to take off from Athens. When Captain Craig Drayton learns of the legal process that is about to take place on his aircraft, he quickly reaches the emotional and patriotic decision that the charges couldn't possibly be anything other than a bogus attempt to kidnap and ultimately execute the former president, as well as embarrass the US government. Faking a hijacking attempt, he rolls his plane, takes off with the former president and a full load of passengers who have no idea of the perilous adventure in which they are now embroiled.
When Harris asks his friend and former law partner, Jay Reinhart, to represent him in the ensuing legal battle, he also advises him that the plane, ostensibly en route to Rome, effectively has nowhere to land that wouldn't endanger Harris' safety! Campbell, a brilliant barrister and legal strategist, has filed a warrant at virtually every airport in Europe. The only obvious escape route is to land at an American Air Force Base in Europe, spirit the former President aboard a US jet and run like a scared rabbit for the safety of US home turf! But the sitting president refuses to condone that particular rescue because of the enormous political fallout that would certainly result! The entire world would recognize that the US signature on the International Treaty Against Torture was absolutely meaningless!
When a secretly recorded video surfaces that clearly films Harris authorizing the black-op that would kill the innocent civilians during the execution of the raid, the problem is no longer how to save a former President from legalized assassination by a kangaroo court in Peru! Now the question revolves around Harris' guilt and whether the US government should force Drayton to deliver Harris into the hands of the Peruvian government for a legitimate trial.
From the standpoint of a Canadian reader, the patriotism and flag-waving is typical, blustery US jingoism and, at least in my opinion, is outrageously overdone. That a senior airline pilot would unilaterally reach the decision to endanger his own life, his plane, his crew and a full load of passengers to save a former US president from a dubious legal process is more than a bit of a credibility stretch. BUT, that said, Nance does a fine job with the plot and the legal process on an international stage. It's a compelling page-turner in which I found myself fully absorbed despite my misgivings at the likelihood of such a series of events. Unlike many thrillers, Nance even takes time to develop his characters and make them considerably more life-like than the typical cardboard cutout heroes of many of today's thrillers.
With a minor suspension of credibility, "Headwind" is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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About the reviewer
Paul Weiss (cpw1952)
A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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