by P.T. Deuterman

St. Martins Press, 1997, $23.95 (322 pages)

Reviewed by Rick McMahan (1/98)

P.T. Deuterman retired from the U.S. Navy before embarking on his fiction writing career, and he uses his insider's knowledge of the inner-workings of the politics and power-plays of the Pentagon in his novels. With SWEEPERS, Deuterman delivers another engrossing novel.

Commander Karen Lawrence is a Naval attorney, nearing retirement with her tour at the Pentagon when her boss asks her to quietly "keep her fingers on the pulse" of a civilian murder investigation that has ramifications within the inner circle of Naval Command. To assist Commander Lawrence in her inquiry, she is partnered with Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Von Rensel, a savvy NCIS agent attuned to political ramifications as well as being a seasoned investigator. What has the Naval Command so concerned is the death of a woman in Fairfax County, Virginia. She was found at the bottom of the stairs in her house. Her neck was broken. It appeared to be an accident, but numerous discrepancies at the crime scene has led the police to want to question the victim's boyfriend, who just happens to be U.S. Navy Admiral Sherman. Sherman proclaims his innocence and confides in Lawrence that he fears he knows who is after him. Sherman suspects he is being stalked by a Navy SEAL who Sherman failed to pick up in enemy waters of Vietnam. The SEAL is listed "M.I.A./presumed" dead with the department of defense.

When Lawrence and Von Rensel make inquiries with a certain agency in Langley, Virginia, the response makes them think that maybe the M.I.A. SEAL is not lost. Maybe he's a "sweeper." A "sweeper" is someone who doesn't exist and is used to terminate rogue agents "in-house." Who better to seek revenge than a person who does not exist and is trained to kill?

What makes Deuterman's novels so intriguing is his multi-faceted approach. He is able to weave personal conflicts in with the investigation and the mystery at the heart of the story. Then he muddies the waters with the Washington politics that affect everything within the halls of the Pentagon. If you're looking for an excellent thriller, then I recommend SWEEPERS.

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