Off the coast of Indonesia, an American cargo ship has been seized by terrorists, its captain kidnapped and its crew mercilessly slaughtered. In Washington, a peace-loving President's refusal to punish the transgressors has enraged the sitting Congress, led by a wrathful Speaker of the House.
An ambitious young congressional assistant, Jim Dillon has discovered a time bomb hidden away in America's Constitution—a provision that could be used to wrest power from the Chief Executive, a long-forgotten law that could incite a devastating constitutional crisis . . . and plunge the country into chaos.
Now, as a battle group steams toward a fateful confrontation in the Java Sea—commissioned by Congress and opposed by the President—Dillon finds himself in the center of a firestorm that rages from the highest court in the land to the killing fields half a world away. Suddenly there is much more at stake than the life of a single surviving hostage and a superpower's military credibility—as a great nation prepares for war . . . against itself.
John Stanbridge, the Speaker of the House in James W. Huston's exciting and exceptionally timely first thriller, isn't exactly Newt Gingrich ("He was of average height with dark brown hair that was stiff and unruly. He wore it parted on the side, but the only time his hair looked neat was in the morning when it was still wet") but he is a hawkish, confrontational Republican who can't stand the idea that President Edward Manchester--a Democrat and a pacifist--is Commander in Chief of America's armed forces. So when Indonesian terrorists hijack a new American supercargo vessel and torture the captain and crew on live TV, Stanbridge is delighted to discover a clause in the Constitution that lets Congress go behind the president's unwilling back and authorize military action on its own. This leads to a Constitutional crisis, which lawyer Huston describes crisply, as well as some air and sea military action, on which former jet pilot Huston also brings a lot of personal expertise to bear. There's even a love story, involving top aides of the Speaker and the president, ensuring that Balance of Power will soon be playing at a movie theater near you. --Dick Adler