A Time to Heal leaves me quite pensive as it deals with the aftermath of the Federation's invasion of Tezwa (even if that invasion was done to prevent worse from the Klingons).
First of all - as we all know it will happen since Riker's still part of the crew in Nemesis -, Riker's rescue from being a captive of Kinchawn's people is a rather minor plot point. Granted, it drives the search parties, but otherwise it remains quite understated. Even his return to the ship - to a captain who regards him as a son (would have loved to see more of that!), to a fiancée who contemplated torture to learn his whereabouts - is a minor affair. At least, now that he's realized his complacency and that he might have hindered Data's advance through the ranks, which the android never pursued because he lacks ambition, he accepts command of the Titan.
The situation on Tezwa is quite dire - acts of sabotage put Tezwans and Starfleet personnel alike in danger. And only slowly the fact that the relief efforts are being misguided towards apparently minor issues comes to light. Of course, in the greater scheme of things those minor issues are keeping the Federation's involvement with Tezwa's weaponry secret... at all costs. In the end quite a few Starfleet officers who risked their lives and led colleagues into battle and to death over a dubious cause become disillusioned and leave the service.
And finally, the secrets come to light... and in a move certainly very similar to a coup d'état, the president, his chief of staff and the minister of military intelligence are asked to resign, and unbeknownst to the public, handed over to Section 31 - and I guess a certain death. Handed over by Admiral Ross - what does Section 31 have over him? Because the Admiral Ross I know from DS9 wouldn't have done that but kept his promise of a anonymous but secure life outside the public. I hope there will be more to this story, and those who conspired to get rid of Zife (but not kill him) will learn the truth, including Picard.
Apart from Riker's decision to accept command, there are other little tidbits that tie into Nemesis - such as Beverly accepting a post as Chief of Starfleet Medical. Knowing what will happen in the post-Nemesis books, Picard's regret over her decision, Beverly's moving on after pining over Picard for quite some time, and Picard's realization that it might be too late for them are quite bittersweet. Interestingly, save for a few comments and the appointment of a new and not favorable ambassador to the Federation Worf and the consequences of his actions during "A Time to Kill" are practically left out of the story entirely. This, too, I hope will be resolved in the final part of the A Time to-series.
Overall, A Time to Heal is a quite good book, dealing with the consequences of an occupation (written I guess, having the experiences of the American forces in Afghanistan in mind) and a large-scale, but secret, conspiracy which put the Federation and the Klingons to brink of war. But it doesn't succeed on all levels. The horror of war are addressed, but then practically swallowed up by another action-sequence, another terror attack. David Mack is good with action, but the quiet moments are those which a story and its protagonists need to come alive. Granted, there's Peart, there's Perrim, there's also the figurative red-shirt... but they feel a bit interchangeable. Maybe that's because I didn't read the other parts of the series, and therefore am not familiar with those characters. I'm not saying that Mack can't write those scenes I'm yearning for - he certainly can as he's shown time and again in other works -, but the balance between action and reflection isn't always working out for me. And in this case, virtually leaving the aftermath of Riker's captivity out of the story (except for a small scene at the end) although it was one of the driving forces of the Enterprise's crew seems a bit like cheating me out of the satisfying emotional reward for sitting through those two rather demoralizing (because of the Federation and Section 31's duplicity and unethical decision) books. Instead, I'm left with a secret coup d'état, a likely assassination of the 3 ringleaders of the Tezwa situation, the assassination of the middlemen - all amongst lots of death and destruction. And the light at the end of the tunnel seems virtually invisible.
Not an easy or satisfying place to finish a book - but there's still hope that not all remains as bleak. There's still another part left in the A Time to-series.