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The Trident Deception, by Rick Campbell

New York: St. Martin's Press, 2014. Pp. 388 . . $25.99. ISBN: 1250039010.

The Trident Deception is a page-turning thriller with a fast pace sustained from beginning to end.   

The best parts of The Trident Deception are those with which the author is clearly the most familiar – those involving submarine personnel, operations, tactics and strategy.  For this reader, the level of detail was just right; enough to be thoroughly convincing and yet explained clearly enough for a neophyte to follow. The tense atmosphere, especially in the submarine Kentucky, but also in the other vessels, planes, and command centers, is well maintained, supported by frequent and convincing reiteration of the high stakes involved.  In addition to the impending obliteration of Iran and the knowledge that to stop it may involve US forces killing their own, Campbell has built into the plot a number of other tensions.  These include the sub-plots of the intensely personal issues between Christine O’Conner, the national security adviser and Kevin Hardison, the president’s chief-of-staff and between Christine and her ex-husband, Dave Hendricks, the deputy director of the National Military Command Center.  Even more gripping is the agonizing assignment taken on by Capt. Murray Wilson to stop the Kentucky from launching its nuclear missiles, which could well result in the death of his own son, Tom, the Kentucky’s Assistant Weapons Officer.

The characters of the naval officers and crewmembers are generally well drawn, as are those of the civilians who have more than just a passing mention.  But the effectiveness of the whole book really hinges on the credibility of the motivations of the various, mostly secondary, actors who take the drastic actions (some treasonous) that allow the plot to progress.  Barak Kogen, the Israeli intelligence minister is apparently intent on destroying Iran, convinced that that is the only hope for the security of Israel.  Levi Rosenfeld and Mike Patton are convincingly portrayed as motivated by hatreds bred of terrible personal losses.  We learn that Chief Electronics Technician Alan Davidson’s first loyalty is to Israel rather than the US, while Dana Cooke, who engineered the flaw in the recent upgrade to the fast-attack sonar systems, was financially strapped as well as greedy, and was in the dark about the larger purpose of his actions.  These motivations are convincing, as is the shadowy part played by Metsada agent Daniel Landau/William Hoover in orchestrating the various elements of the plot.  Less convincing is the part played by Dave Hendricks.  He, we learn near the end of The Trident Deception, is convinced that it will take a massive catastrophe to force the US to seriously beef up its defenses and he is prepared to help create that catastrophe.  This is the least convincing of the various motivations, especially as it also means he is prepared to murder his ex-wife to pursue that end.

The one area left surprisingly blank is the role of other security agencies in trying to unravel the plot.  A CIA agent is briefly involved and reference is also made to the FBI, but apparently only the Navy and a handful of civilians high up in the administration were knowingly working on the case.  Campbell’s explanation for this is the urgent political imperative to keep the whole thing under wraps.  This reader finds the prospect of a nuclear attack on Iran by the US so dire that any administration would surely call on all resources available to prevent it and then worry about spin later. But this is a minor point in an otherwise gripping tale.

The seeds of a sequel to The Trident Deception are nicely hinted at with Hoover’s meeting in California, and I, for one, look forward to it immensely.


Our Reviewer: Prof Williams, a military historian and former Executive Director of the  The New York Military Affairs Symposium, is the author of several books on navies and technology, including Secret Weapon: U.S. High-Frequency Direction Finding in the Battle of the Atlantic and Grace Hopper: Admiral of the Cyber Sea, as well as many journal articles.  Her most recent book is The Measure of a Man: My Father, the Marine Corps, and Saipan


Reviewer: Kathleen Broome Williams   

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