Against All Enemies

by John G. Hemry

Cover image

Series: Paul Sinclair #4
Publisher: Ace
Copyright: January 2006
ISBN: 0-441-01382-1
Format: Mass market
Pages: 336

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This is the fourth and, to date, final book in the Paul Sinclair series. It references events from previous books and there are some recurring characters, but as in an episodic TV show, none of the series background is required to understand the story.

If you've read through the whole series, by now the formula is familiar. We get a quick reintroduction to Paul Sinclair, junior naval officer and ship's legal officer on the USS Michaelson. Then there's a bit of unusual action to raise the tension level a bit, a few personal complications, and then a legal problem that comes from the action and forms the heart of the book. The conclusion is a rather tense court martial. Both the benefit of this series and its limitation is that this formula has varied very little over all four books; for good or for ill, you know exactly what you're going to get when you pick it up.

After the personal melodrama of Rule of Evidence, Hemry tones it down a notch for Against All Enemies, which is wise. The series was on an arc of ever-increasing catastrophe, which was starting to get a bit unrealistic. The story here is more mellow and more reasonable. One still wonders if the Michaelson is cursed, but assuming you can buy that something else has happened to it, Sinclair's role and subsequent involvement in the inevitable legal case is natural and fitting.

The strengths of this series remain the same. Sinclair is likeable and, most critically, not an idiot. The plot is driven by realistic complications and the inherent difficulty of proving a legal case, not by stupid decisions by the main characters. There is a refreshing lack of runs of bad judgement that make the reader cringe. Hemry is at his best in portraying characters who are taking a side but trying hard to be professionally fair, maintaining an open mind, and constantly reanalyzing their decisions and motives. He uses the after-effects of the previous book to good purpose here, providing some thoughtful consideration of the implications of involvement with the prosecution. And, as with the rest of the series, people do bad things but there are few full-out hissable villains. Hemry tries to provide an opportunity to at least understand everyone and show how they consider themselves the heroes of their own story.

That said, either I'm getting a bit tired of the formula (most likely) or this story wasn't quite as compelling. The pacing is still excellent and I read the last section without wanting to stop, but I came away from this book entertained but not in a hurry to read any more. I think this is mostly the natural effect of going to the same basic structure for the fourth time in a row. It can work on TV, but TV demands a lot less intellectual involvement than a novel. By the end of Against All Enemies, I was ready for a significant change in the formula. (And there are circumstances in Paul's life that would provide for that, if Hemry ever writes another book in this series.)

If you've read the series so far, I can assure you that Against All Enemies is more of the same. It's satisfying as more of the same, and if you're in the mood for that sort of story, I recommend it. It's like Law and Order: once you've watched a few of them, you know what you're going to get, and either you're in the mood for that thing or you're not. Hemry executes it well, provides more intelligent characters than most, has a good grasp of pacing, and provides a satisfying climax. It's never going to win awards, but it's good entertainment.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2009-02-14

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