A.J. Stewart is a writer who I came across thanks to some of his quirky novels set in South Florida. They aren’t quite as out there as some of the novels by Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen, which is probably why I like them better than some of the others. The Final Tour marks a different tack for Stewart, as he leaves Miami Jones behind and takes on the seriousness of war-torn Iraq during the U.S. drawdown.
Jacques Fontaine is a member of the French Foreign Legion. Unfortunately, the French refused to send troops to Iraq, so when the French get wind of weapons being sold to terrorists as the United States is leaving the country, there’s not much they can do about it. Or is there? Fontaine is tapped to bring in his elite group of Legionnaires to track down the weapons, while the French government can disavow all knowledge.
If it sounds a bit like Mission Impossible, you wouldn’t be far from the mark. The whole book has that kind of feel to it, with plenty of action and suspense as Fontaine and his men criss-cross dangerous part of Iraq trying to stop weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. They must think on their feet with not government support, although their presence does not go unnoticed.
This was a good military thriller. I liked the perspective of people being in Iraq who were not directly involved in the war but were really on the outside looking in. They are there to make sure terrorists don’t get weapons that can harm Europe, while those countries never participated in the war. Why would they target Europe? To create more division between the western countries and anti-U.S. sentiment.
I felt like the book really took a while to get going, but I really liked not having a U.S.-based protagonist in Iraq. Fontaine is an interesting character. He has a dedication to duty and his fellow Legionnaires that has him put that above all else. There is a hint at romance, but he is no Tom Cruise seducing every woman he comes in contact with. The flag-waving patriots who don’t think anything wrong went on at Guantanamo might not like how U.S. troops are depicted here. While I’m sure there were plenty of good people in Iraq, there were likely plenty who were willing to cast duty aside for personal gain.
That is what Stewart capitalizes on; the darker side of people that will jump at what they perceive as an opportunity to enrich themselves without thinking about the consequences. In this case, the ground soldiers in Iraq are struggling way more than the contractors who are making a fortune off of the war, so why shouldn’t they get a bigger piece of the pie? It’s something to think about when we fight modern warfare.
There was no real great mystery to figure out, as the reader learns things at the same pace as Fontaine, so it’s not like I felt I could guess what was going to happen. The ending was also ambivalent, as this is the first book in a series Stewart is writing, so it leaves plenty open for the next book in the series. It was very different from Miami Jones, but I liked it well enough and will continue with the series.