Guest post by New York Times best-selling author Stephen Frey whose new thriller, Arctic Fire, released on October 9, 2012.
How far should the United States go to prevent terrorism? Put bluntly, should our agents torture suspected bad guys to obtain information about planned attacks? That’s the issue Arctic Fire takes head on and it pits father against son and brother against brother to frame the conflict.
It’s a furiously and oft-debated topic, no doubt. And the subplots lingering just beneath the surface of the obvious controversy are gut wrenching and plentiful. If we use torture, how high in the chain of command must our agents go to gain approval? How certain should agents be that the suspect is a member of a recognized terrorist organization? Do our leaders empower one super-secret cell with a license to do anything it deems necessary in the name of homeland security.
Arctic Fire digs into these daunting dilemmas of morality and conscience. For me, the most compelling issue comes down to passion. If you are passionately opposed to using torture for any reason under any circumstance, what happens when it’s someone you love who’s imminently vulnerable?
What if you knew your family member would be killed in an attack, unless our agents are allowed to “aggressively interrogate” a man who was just arrested and they are “99% certain” he’s responsible for coordinating the attack and “probably” has critical information which would enable authorities to prevent bloodshed. But he’s not talking. If you don’t believe in torture, what do you do?
Jack Jensen is Arctic Fire’s protagonist. He’s a marginally successful Wall Street trader whose adoptive father, Bill, is a tremendously successful Wall Street rainmaker. Jack’s adoptive younger brother, Troy, is the star of the family and the light of Bill’s eye. Jack doesn’t believe in torture for information and feels the United States plays the bully far too often around the world. Bill believes the United States should act even more aggressively in its role as the “lone superpower.”
What Jack doesn’t know is that Troy is a member of that super-secret cell that can do anything it deems necessary in the name of homeland security. Jack and Bill square off on the issues over breakfast one morning and neither gives an inch. They only dig in deeper against each other and the lifelong tension between them only intensifies.
Ultimately, Jack must save Troy’s life, and in the process he discovers that Troy is what he detests—a member of U.S. intelligence doing those awful things that he feels can’t be justified. In the process of trying to save Troy, his girlfriend is kidnapped and has only hours to live. One man knows where she is, but he’s not saying much. There’s only one way to get information about his girlfriend quickly—torture the man. Jack must make the toughest decision of his life.