Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book Review: Code 13, Don Brown

Lieutenant Commander Caroline McCormick, Judge Advocate General's Corp (JAG), US Navy, is a highly competent Navy lawyer. On the basis of a stellar stint of handling the personal legal affairs (wills, powers of attorney, etc.) of sailors on a ship about to head to sea for an extended time, she is reassigned to the secretive Code 13 section of JAG at the Pentagon. Her former, almost fiance is also assigned there. Complicating that move and relationship, Commander McCormick is strongly attracted to Captain Paul Kriete, who is also being reassigned to Washington. And, just to make things interesting, her almost fiance, Lt. Commander PJ MacDonald, is strongly attracted to the beautiful red-headed Senior Lieutenant Victoria Fladager, also in JAG in the Pentagon. But, that's not the main story.

Code 13 and Lt. Commander MacDonald (PJ) in particular have been tasked with issuing an opinion on the legality of a proposed coastline drone surveillance program to be run by the Navy but to be done in partnership with Homeland Security. At issue are the Fourth Amendment protections against searches without a warrant and the doctrine of "posse comitatas" that prevents the use of the military in domestic law enforcement. There are powerful stake holders, some of whom will stop at nothing to either get the drone program approved or to prevent its approval. And, to get their way, one of those interested parties is apparently assassinating JAG officers.

I must say that the author, Don Brown, keeps the story moving and kept my interest. And, there is a "nice" little twist at the end that I didn't see coming. The conflict between securing the borders of the US, combatting terrorism, and ensuring constitutionally guaranteed privacy and freedom is handled well. Lt. Commander MacDonald is torn on how to write his legal opinion and I, as the reader, felt his conflicts. Also, there is no graphic sex or foul language — adultery is alluded to, but not described.

But — and you were waiting for the "But" — this book is so full of clichés.

First, every possible conspiracy is introduced: big government, intrusive government, mob-controlled drug trafficking, greedy corporations who will do anything to get profits, terrorist threats, blackmail. It's all there.

Second, it seems that every possible stereotype is given page time: military men who are hunks, affairs between bosses and secretaries, politicians who can't keep themselves from getting involved in sexual scandals, the dumb cousin in the mob, sexist attitudes of both men ("… hot little firecraker of a redhead JAG officer.") and women ("One man alone, trim and well fitted in the choker whites of a naval officer's uniform, could stop most women dead in their tracks … even the least of them proving to be handsomer than the studliest actor Hollywood had to offer."). For me, it really got old.

If you want a clean, quick, no-thinking-necessary read, then Code 13 is a good book for that. The book does have Christian elements in it. I enjoyed it, but it's not going to make my "Best of 2016" list.

DISCLAIMER: In exchange for an honest review, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of its BookLook Bloggers' program. My only compensation, besides the free book, is continued participation in the program.
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