James Huston has been reading the Constitution again, and the results are not only educational but also wildly entertaining.
Huston , a former Navy F-14 top gunner and JAG lawyer, electrified Washington last year with "Balance of Power," a best-selling thriller that proposed that a simple reading of the Constitution gives the Congress war powers that are independent of the president's.
In "Balance," Jim Dillon, an aide to an aggressive speaker of the House, finds a constitutional way for Congress to act when President Manchester, a pacifist, refuses to move against terrorists. This precipitates a crisis as Congress orders an admiral to act against the president's direct orders.
"The Price of Power" deals with the aftermath, as Manchester goes back on his truce with Congress and orders a court-martial of Admiral Billings for obeying Congress. An enraged speaker then moves to impeach the president for not fulfilling the duties of his office.
But the terrorists who were dealt with in the last episode aren't done yet. They kidnap an American business executive and his wife and demand the release of their captured comrades.
What they don't know is that the Justice Department is already moving to free them under the premise that they were illegally detained.
The speaker, sensing that Manchester is in the midst of political self-destruction, refuses to offer Billings any assistance in the court-martial. He cynically realizes that the martyrdom of Billings might just give him the ticket to the White House.
Dillon quits his plum post with the speaker's office and heads to Honolulu to defend Billings pro bono. He is joined by his sometime girlfriend, Molly Vaughan, a White House counsel who is similarly disillusioned by political dirty tricks at her job.
It might be improbable that the young but brilliant Dillon becomes the center of the three most important legal battles in the Free World - as he defends Billings, prosecutes the president and finds yet another constitutional way for Congress to do battle with the Indonesian terrorist group - but the story is so much fun that readers won't quibble.
Huston mixes a serious and timely point - that Congress has ignored its constitutional duty to have real input in decisions of war and peace because of political timidity - with a superbly entertaining yarn.
"The Price of Power" is an exhilarating ride from Navy SEAL commando operations in the South Pacific that ring with authenticity and excitement and Washington power gatherings to gripping and lively monumental courtroom confrontations.
Once again, Huston seems to settle the issues with an air of finality, but you never know. There might just be something else in the Constitution, hidden in plain sight and obscured by plain English, just waiting to be grist for this ingenious author's mill.