Captain Harding and His Men – Elliott Mackle (Lethe Press)

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Buy it now direct from Lethe Press

Ambassadors, lock up your sons, because Captain Joe Harding
is back. He may still be stuck in the abyss of Libya, but he gets into more
danger and stickier situations than men half his rank. Last time it was Captain
Harding’s Six-Day War
, and Elliott Mackle isn’t yet ready for a cease fire,
coming on strong with its sequel Captain Harding and His Men.

This second book of Harding’s exploits finds him still at
Wheelus AFB with the redoubtable “top cop” Captain Jeff Masters and Colonel
Opstein as his friend and superior, respectively. It also finds him still in
love with the American ambassador’s son, Cotton. This time, however, they’re
dealing with mysterious cargo shipments that involve munitions. Someone, of
course, ends up dead—which spirals into more death and destruction and uncovers
a plot that threatens American interests in the entire region.

Mackle’s characters are well-rounded, with enough quirks to
make them interesting. No one, however, is more interesting than Joe Harding.
Like Henry Thompson in Mackle’s Hot Off the Presses (Lethe Press, 2010),
Harding clearly knows what’s best for him in any given situation. He sometimes
has trouble following that route, however, and takes the path of most
resistance. Also like Thompson, Harding has a healthy disregard for the
structure (and strictures) that provide him with a paycheck. Both characters
turn on their self-destructive streak, if doing what is right instead of best
is self-destructive.

The strongest, most interesting character outside of Harding
is American ambassador Elizabeth Boardman, Cotton’s mother. Somewhat of a
cipher in Six-Day War, Mackle deepens her considerably here, finding her
will, her determination and even, at times, her softer side. Also noteworthy is
Hardings fuck buddy, Major Hal Denham—a scrappy minor character who plays a
major role in the denouement

And what a denouement it is—solidly written and
grippingly plotted, outfitted with sex, violence and death. Mackle tells this
bit like a master, effortlessly finding the emotional center of the conflict
and working that last nerve until it frazzles. If the military jargon mystifies
you (as it did someone I know), suck it up, call it atmosphere and read for
context. You won’t be disappointed with where Mackle takes you.

In short, Captain Harding and His Men is an
absolutely top-notch sequel to Captain Harding’s Six-Day War—and one
that will stand admirably on its own merits. 

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©, 2012,
Jerry Wheeler

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