Thursday, February 24, 2011

Say Goodbye

By Robert Capko
$2.99 at

Robert Capko has written a military novel reminiscent of Tom Clancy but more accessible—both in length and in laying out the story in a timely manner.

Just as some books are characterized as “chick lit,” I would characterize Say Goodbye as a “guy book,” even though I’m not a guy and enjoyed it very much.

Capko has done his research, and the novel is heavy on descriptions and explanations of military equipment and weaponry. He may have overdone it a touch, but every detail adds to the believability of the story.

John Paxton is a decorated U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJs parachute into dangerous situations to rescue military personnel.) who now instructs PJs at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Although he still travels, his work as an instructor is much more conducive to family life with his wife Jill and their two children, four-year-old John, Jr. and two-year-old Megan.

This happy situation changes one afternoon when a two-star general shows up in Paxton’s office and orders him on a secret rescue mission to Serbia–so secret he has to leave immediately without even telling his family. No one in John’s chain of command except this General Reed knows what’s going on.

The story takes place in 1999. The Cold War is over; the Balkan states are in upheaval and fighting among themselves. Even though 9/11 hasn’t happened yet and al Qaeda isn’t a household word, Capko foreshadows later events by making the radical Islamist organization and Saddam Hussein part of the story.

A U.S. Stealth Fighter has been shot down by Serbians, and ostensibly Paxton and his team of PJs have been dispatched to rescue the pilot. But then things get hinky. Why Paxton? He’s no longer an active PJ. Who’s the mysterious McMurphy who is assigned to the mission but is unknown to everyone but General Reed? What’s McMurphy’s role, and what’s in the green backpack he won’t let out of his sight? He’s sure not talking.

General Reed forces Paxton to change out of his Air Force uniform into one that lacks any indication of rank, unit or nationality, and he takes from him anything that would identify him as a member of the U.S. military. If Paxton fails in his mission and is captured, he will look like a mercenary.

Eventually the mission does go badly. The rescuers wind up on the ground but not in the way or the location they had intended. Bad blood develops between McMurphy and Paxton, who is convinced the mystery man is committing treason on Reed’s orders. Not only are the two men’s lives endangered, but the danger extends all the way to Paxton’s family in Texas.

Ultimately, of course, Paxton survives and his true mission is explained, if not resolved. As with a good Clancy novel, there is plenty of suspense, politics and misdirection. Say Goodbye ends with a cliffhanger that sets up the next John Paxton novel, The Long Road Home. Readers can expect another good yarn chockablock with military detail and political intrigue.

Click here to link to Say Goodbye.

Davilynn Furlow

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