Brian Haig's "Man in the Middle" is Army Lieutenant Colonel Sean Drummond, an attorney for the Judge Advocate General Corps who is temporarily assigned to the CIA. Sean's boss wants him to investigate the death of a Defense Department civil servant named Clifford Daniels. The circumstances of Daniels' death are not clear-cut; he either took his own life or was murdered by a clever killer with a knowledge of forensics. Working with Drummond is Major Bian Tran, a member of the Military Police Corp. Tran is a beautiful and exotic woman as well as a tough soldier who completed a tour of combat duty in Iraq. Although Bian and Sean are physically attracted to one another, they develop a prickly and somewhat competitive relationship. Before long, it becomes apparent that Cliff Daniels was just one part of an intricate puzzle with many ugly elements, including espionage, ruthless ambition, betrayal, and treason.
Haig, a former special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offers compelling background information and insightful perspective about the bloody conflict in Iraq. The author understands military matters, the workings of government bureaucracies, and the social, cultural, and religious problems plaguing the Persian Gulf. However, "Man in the Middle" is a flawed work of fiction. At four hundred and fifty pages, it is bloated novel with too much stilted banter and long-winded explanations that slow down the book's momentum considerably. It takes Haig a few hundred pages to rev up his plot, and only extremely patient readers will want to stick around for the finale. The characters are, with one or two exceptions, one-dimensional and poorly developed. To his credit, Haig delivers an exciting climax with some nifty twists that culminate in a fairly satisfying resolution. However, "Man in the Middle" earns only a marginal recommendation; it needed better editing and a tighter, more focused plot.