After the 9/11 terrorism attacks, disbelief and the improbable regarding national security have become believable in the mind of Americans. That being said, the second fiction installment of the Jack Mahegan series from former General Anthony J. Tata spins quite a tale.The novel “Three Minutes to Midnight” is an action-packed thriller with dozens of plot twists, mayhem, and sexual deviancy. It kicks off with Maeve Cassidy, an Army geologist returning from Afghanistan fleeing Fort Bragg under gunfire and then being kidnapped in Cary. The entire story essentially takes place in North Carolina’s Triangle. Cassidy’s husband, involved in sexual orgies, is murdered and her daughter, Piper, is kidnapped for leverage. Cassidy’s expertise is needed to pull off a heist and terrorist attack.All of the nefarious scheming has to do with the plot of wealthy North Carolina good old boys who set up an international ring to steal natural gas reserves in the Piedmont for a $1 billion payout. However, the story soon morphs into an international terrorism conspiracy, which means impending disaster for some of North Carolina’s most popular regions. The Chinese are the vicious mastermind in their attempt to flex their muscle over the United States. While it’s somewhat unclear why N.C. is chosen for the attack, Mahegan attempts to convince the area is an essential security and economic region for the Southeast.It’s Mahegan’s job to unravel the impending catastrophe, and he gets to settle a long personal score at the same time. Some of the conspirators, rather conveniently, are individuals who murdered his mother and father. Mahegan even made one of them a eunuch when he tossed him through a glass door when he was just 14.Mahegan, a former Delta Ranger, is 6’6″, and is part Croatan Indian. His main sidekick is an Asian woman named Grace Kagami who works for the Raleigh Police Department and can’t decide if she prefers men or women, but is soon romantically involved with Mahegan as the international conspiracy unfolds.One of the strengths of Tata’s account is that given his military background he is adept at terminology and explaining the finer tactics of small arms engagements. One example, about halfway through the book, Tata explains perfectly the strategic purpose of a probing attack in battle. Readers who are not very knowledgeable of fracking may appreciate Tata’s informative explanations for drilling that do not sacrifice any of the strong narrative flow. It is unclear whether Tata has an axe to grind against fracking, which is essential for energy independence, but the account seems to slightly editorialize its danger to the environment. An anti-fracking group of women become invaluable to Mahegan in his quest to save the region from disaster.If another small complaint can be added, it might be that some of the characters are formulaic and politically safe. The main evildoers are rural Caucasian North Carolinians fond of Civil War history, presumably the Confederacy. While the Chinese are ultimately behind the nuclear attack, lost in the account is that radical Islam is by far the greatest terror threat. While that threat is left out of this account, it’s something Tata certainly knows well.The story seems to end rather abruptly for a 345-page novel with little suggestion as to what happens to the leading protagonists at the end of the story. While some could make the argument that this novel is short on reality, for many readers that will be its greatest appeal.
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