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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
Personal experience in search and rescue aviation makes for an excellent plot source as demonstrated in Marc Liebman’s Big Mother 40, the call sign of Josh Haman’s helicopter. The North Vietnamese have created a covert base under the call sign of Venom. This base is testing new tactics that have increased the number of American airplanes that are shot down. Haman and Marty Cabot suspect a leak within the Navy’s communication that, if proven, will make their intelligence division wet their pants. But the folks at DC seem convinced that there is no leak, and the brave men on the field have to proceed as if the leak has not been plugged. Cabot manages to capture a map showing the detailed points of their insertion and extraction landing zones that are pretty accurate. At the Venom base, a Russian officer agrees to take more risk in increasing the tally of airplanes that are shot down. But both the Russians and the North Vietnamese know that it is not a question of if, but when, and they must be prepared to survive an attack as soon as American forces discover them.
It is always a pleasure to review a Marc Liebman novel. Here, you get to read about naval aviation’s under-recognized role in Vietnam, emphasizing the costly mistakes of decision-makers at the expense of the real heroes who gave their lives. Liebman’s naval experiences mirrored in Haman’s adventures make for an enthralling reading experience, and the postscript on factual information about the intel leak on which the plot is based is equally engrossing. Though it is never intended as autobiographical, Liebman’s Josh Haman novels offer perhaps the most insightful criticism of the US Armed Forces available through the character of Haman, who is bound to find his way into the canon of military fiction.