Author:  Don Brown
Title:  The Malacca Conspiracy 

Publisher:  Zondervan

Clear the rest of your day's schedule before you pick up this page-turner. Don Brown's action-packed political thriller will draw you in and not let go til the final page. The author of the best-selling Navy Justice Series brings back favorite characters Zack Brewer and Diane Colcernian to help fight terrorism from Washington, D.C. to the waters of Indonesia.

Sent to the neighboring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia as U.S. Naval attachés, Zack and Diane hope to spend time together and renew their romance, but instead they find themselves embroiled in a terrorist conspiracy. Islamist extremists manipulate the oil markets to fund their purchase of nuclear weapons, which they intend to use against America and her allies. Oil tankers are bombed in and near the Straits of Malacca—a vulnerable area in the international shipping lanes. A president is assassinated, resulting in a coup under cover of "emergency martial law." A fanatical general spews nuclear blackmail at the United Sates. Is he for real?

The U.S. President calls in the U.S. Seventh Fleet to reestablish control of the Malacca Straits. Zack joins the mission to prevent a nuclear attack on American soil. Can they discover the plot in time to stop it? How many innocent lives will be lost, and saved?

The Malacca Conspiracy moves briskly, even swiftly. Brown successfully creates mini-cliffhangers by moving from one scene to another without resolving the former scene. He does this throughout the book, inducing tension in the reader that causes pages to fly by with no regard for time. The action is realistic, as are the military jargon and technical details. Brown's experience in the Navy and at the Pentagon lends an authentic shine to his writing.

Alas, the fast pace leaves little time for character development. Brown introduces them well enough that they become very likeable (or hateable), but soon enough the action interrupts and the people seem to hang on for the ride. There is no time to get to know them. I wanted to know more about Zack, Diane, and a few others so I would understand their motives better and care more what happened to them. An action-driven novel doesn't rely on strong characterization, but I felt that this was one of the weaker elements of the book and more depth of character could have improved it.  It also should be noted that the main characters are introduced and followed in Brown's Navy Justice Series, so readers desiring to know their back story more fully should read those books before picking this one up.

Another sign that The Malacca Conspiracy was written for action and thrills is revealed in the awkwardness of the few romantic scenes. Brown doesn't seem comfortable describing kisses, hugs, and intimate conversations. He also inconsistently portrays Diane by highlighting her femininity in battle scenes. Surely a lieutenant commander in the Navy doesn't need her boyfriend to hold her hand and help her run from the chopper. However, these are minor blips within an exciting and well-written adventure.

In the political/military action/suspense genre, Brown can more than keep up with the general market authors such as Vince Flynn, Mike Lawson, Andrew Peterson, Tim Green, etc. But Brown adds a spiritual element to the characters' struggles. Rather than focusing on larger questions of wartime morality, he allows various characters to wrestle with the way their faith intersects the choices they must make. They aren't always in a literal foxhole, but God becomes real to many of the characters as they face danger while fighting for justice.



**This review first published on September 6, 2010.