August 2, 2011
5 min. read
This used to be offered as a free book for the Kindle and was one of many I added to my account after receiving my Kindle. (If its free, its for me, right?)
When reading the author “Don Brown” on the cover of this novel, I was mistaking it for a more famous Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code). As I read the military themes unfold, my mind then played further tricks on me as I made a connection with Dale Brown’s military styled novels as the author. None of this is important in discussing the merits and faults of this novel, which shares more with John Grisham than either of the other two authors mentioned.
Treason is the first book in Don Brown’s Navy Justice series, which follows Navy JAG (Judge Advocate General) Lieutenant Zack Brewer through two major cases. This feels familiar to the JAG TV series. Don Brown is a former JAG Officer and thus the similarities between the two are actually similarities between both and the actual Military Justice System of the United States. All interactions and procedures portrayed in the book seem real and believable.
This is an average novel, but not a great one. I was confused by the level of discussion of faith throughout the book, tempered mostly by my assumption that the author was one of those discussed above. It was surprising that they would break form and include some discussion of Christian faith and beliefs, when not directly germane to the plot. As a Christian, I actually enjoyed what it added to the book.
After completing the novel, I realized that the publisher is Zondervan, one of the largest Bible and Evangelical Christian book publishers. Thus the inclusion of Christian themes is less surprising. I actually found it much more subtle than other novels with tangential Christian teaching which I have read in the past.
It is hard not to compare this book to works from John Grisham, who is after all a master of the courtroom novel. Unfortunately, Don Brown does not quite make the cut.
The novel opens with Muslim leaders discussing the infiltration of sleeper agents into the United States Armed Forces. As the story unfolds, we learn that a lawsuit was won which allowed Muslim Chaplains into the Armed Forces. Some of these Chaplains are handlers to infiltrate and create a network of like minded Muslim soldiers to attack the enemy from within. This is truly a scary premise and one which is an undeniably fertile ground for a great story.
Muslim soldiers are committing acts of terror. One instance, a soldier brings grenades to a Christian church where a discussion of Islam was occurring. The bomber demands that the preacher admit that Mohammed is the one true prophet and explodes two grenades when the preacher stands his ground. Many are killed, along with the attacker. In a second instance, a sniper assassinates the Ambassador from Israel, before committing suicide.
The first trial in the book is mostly for setting the ball rolling and introducing the main players. A Navy SEAL is accused of raping an officer, who is the niece of a prominent Senator. I found it amusing that the novel included a token “Reverend” whose only preaching occurs by talking about oppressed minorities to the press. This just rings a little too true.
Zach is prosecuting the case against a beautiful JAG officer, who hates Zach due to a previous encounter. Throughout the trial, the truth is unknown. The rape accusation sounds fishy and Zach is troubled by his thought that he might not be doing the correct thing in putting the SEAL away. Unfortunately, this theme is almost immediately dropped at the conclusion of the first trial.
Meanwhile, a F-18 Hornet is destroyed by another jihadist, who plants explosives in the fighter. This is the event which starts the investigation of the main case in the novel. The United States vs the 3 Chaplains who ran the jihadists in the military.
Along the way we have cross plots of possible future political aspirations of the young Lieutenant Zack with a possible pairing with the famous Senator’s niece. The problem is the main meat and potatoes of the novel is the second trial. This is where the novel falters.
The President of the United States allows cameras into the courtroom for the first time in a Court Marshal. I initially wondered why and realized later that it was for the benefit of the writer. Far too often, when major portions of the case were to happen, the plot was moved forward by tangential characters hearing the summary on the evening news. It seems as though the author assumed all readers would skim this part anyway, so he did the skimming for them. The drama is in the courtroom: what is said, what is done. The novel is lesser for leaving much of this out.
All in all, it is a novel I enjoyed reading, but wouldn’t read again. The plot was predictable and linear. Characters one dimensional with little ambiguity. Everything is very black and white. I assumed the ending in the first few chapters and unfortunately was absolutely correct. Surprises were few and far between. I may eventually read the other two books in this series, but I’m in not rush to do so.