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by Ed Gaffney
Dell, February 2008
368 pages
ISBN: 0440243742

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Since the events of 9/11, a new type of thriller has emerged, one that focuses on the issues of terrorism within the United States. ENEMY COMBATANT is unique in that its approach to the topic is from the point of view of the courtroom where the justice against alleged terrorists is meted out.

When Tom Carpenter finds himself in the middle of defending an American terrorist (the enemy combatant) accused of killing countless Americans in the worst attack on American soil since 9/11, he has no idea of the repercussions the case will have for his own life, or those of his family members.

To make this situation even more confusing, a secret source is assisting Carpenter in unlikely and unsavory ways. Yet, can the source be trusted? Danger seems to surround Carpenter at every turn, and even the courtroom itself seems fraught with danger. It is only by unfolding a surprising conspiracy piece by piece that the truth can finally emerge.

Although author Ed Gaffney has taken some unlikely leaps in his storyline, the unique legal perspective that is brought to the story makes it fresh and exciting. There are plenty of action scenes for readers, of course, but it is the homespun storytelling of Carpenter’s life and influences mixed into the plot that makes readers care about Carpenter and his family – thus having a stake in wanting to see the story succeed.

Another great asset to Gaffney’s storytelling is his ability to hook readers at the end of each chapter, driving readers on to the next chapter and making this book a quick and easy read.

Also on the positive side is the larger questions planted by the author about the dilemma of labeling a defendant an “enemy combatant,” which introduces a unique stigma likely to preclude a fair trial. Although a conspiracy is clearly in play against the man on trial here, these issues leave readers with bigger questions about the nature of terrorism and the rush to judgment Americans instinctively feel while living under the threat of terrorism.

Less successfully implemented in this novel are some of the chase scenes, which stretch the believability of the story. And readers no doubt hope that the average courthouse is considerably safer than the one portrayed within ENEMY COMBATANT. Still, on the whole, the story works. Gaffney knows how to pose the questions that will linger after the book is finished, as well as make the journey interesting along the way.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, January 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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