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Spymasters and technology provide plenty of excitement in two new thrillers.

Holiday Thrills

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Is there anybody else out there who writes aerial techno-thrillers with the same explosive excitement and imagination as Dale Brown? If there is, I wish somebody would tell me who, because I'd like to devour his or her novels, too.

"Battle Born," (Bantam, $24.95), Brown's 11th book, takes its name from the motto of the state where the author lives and where some of the ground action in his latest novel is set: Nevada. Credit the vivid descriptions of aerial antics in his books to the fact that Brown pilots his own plane, too.

As "Battle Born" develops, the world is about to be plunged into World War III by China and a newly reunified Korea. Brig. Gen. Patrick McLanahan is back, this time using his extraordinary skills as a navigator-bombardier in the Air Force to train a group of hard-flying, individualistic Nevada guard pilots to use their B-1B Lancer bombers to seek out and destroy enemy missiles.

Before McLanahan can mold his group of Type-A pilots into a cohesive unit, however, the fragile peace in Asia is destroyed dramatically, and it's up to McLanahan and his Nevada mavericks to keep Korea and China from mutual destruction.

Brown's strength lies in his ability to put the reader in the center of headlong action, whether it's in a command-and-control center deep underground in Korea, in the cockpit of a super-secret megafortress bomber 30,000 feet in the air, or in the Oval Office as a determined president tries to keep a nuclear holocaust from consuming the world. With short, punchy and vivid narrative paragraphs, Brown sketches awesome conflicts, then uses authentic state-of-the-art technology and air power to resolve them. He paints the personalities of his audacious airmen with a confidence that makes them fairly leap off the page.

The result is a relentless pace and a satisfying conclusion. And no matter the outcome of the battles in the air and the conflicts on land, the reader is always the winner.

— Don Dale

With each novel David Baldacci adds to his reputation as a premier thriller writer. His new book, "Saving Faith" (Warner Books, $26.95) is guaranteed to give him additional acclaim as he once again attacks governmental improprieties.

The novel begins with a government agency resenting having to compromise its jurisdiction with what it perceives as unfair restrictions on its sphere of influence. Headed by a veteran spymaster, this agency plans to discredit any rival in government with the aid of a lobbyist, Daniel Buchanan, who has unlimited resources and influence in Washington. When Daniel's chief corporate partner and confidant, Faith Lockhart, overhears several sensitive conversations outlining a dramatic course of illicit action, she is deemed expendable.

Lee Adams, a maverick private detective, is mysteriously commissioned to shadow her and is a witness to her attempted murder. Barely surviving a carefully orchestrated ambush; Lee and Faith must evade professional killers, relying on instinct and an innate ability to alter their appearance and personalities. To save their lives, they must be prepared to expose abuses of power that could have repercussions for the nation.

"Saving Faith" is a white-knuckle escapade which will involve the reader with characters who are prepared to sacrifice for the sanctity of ethical convictions. If there is a fault in Baldacci's storytelling, it is a tendency for mild predictability without many of the usual elements of surprise. His characters are embodiments of virtue and possess a likability that readers will identify with. The title itself conveys a double reference, not only to the hopeful preservation of Faith Lockhart, but to the maintenance of faith and trust in a system permeated by internal corruption and decay.

— Bruce

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