Fault Line...a Book Review
By Barry Eisler
A Ballantine Books Hardcover; ISBN 978-0-345-50508-8; $25.00 USD; 306 pages;
Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – October 2008
Ben Treven, cold, cynical and a damn fine tool of an undercover operative for the USA is called home by his younger brother because someone is trying to kill him. Baby brother Alex, a brilliant young attorney and a typical yuppie is worried. His client is killed in a situation that just doesn’t ring right, and Alex’s contact at the Patents and Trademarks office in Virginia dies just a few hours later, then a home invasion attack on Alex himself rings major alarm bells in his mind. Virtually alone in the world and unsure who to trust, Alex calls his big brother whom he hasn’t spoken to in ten years. There are unresolved issues between them, a massive amount of anger and resentment, and a truckload of simmering grief. There were too many deaths and years between them to allow them to be comfortable around each other. But Ben had always saved his baby brother’s butt and worn the consequences. Why should now be any different? Add a beautiful woman that they both desire to the mix and things begin to smolder. Sarah Hosseini, a lovelyl Iranian/American who is a first year associate with the law firm Alex works for, assists him with the patenting of the Obsidian technology. The complex computer program that can disrupt networks is what everybody seems to want, and covert operatives are ready to kill innocent people just for knowing it exists. Ben, Alex, and Sarah don’t know who is behind it all, but events come to a head when the mole in the law firm Alex and Sarah work for lets slip one vital piece of information. The threat is more close to home than they suspected, and Alex must ransom the information he has for the lives of his brother and Sarah. Suspicions abound, trusts are broken, remade, and shifted again, and the pace is hot.
The familial strangeness between Ben and Alex goes back years to when their sister, Katie, was killed in an auto accident. She had been the loving lynch pin that held them all together, and with her tragic death, the family began a downward spiral of disintegration. Accusations of blame abounded at first, but the later retractions fell by the wayside as the damage had already been done. The difference in their ages and unspoken grief drove a wedge into Alex and Ben’s already rocky brotherly relationship that should have brought them closer together. Less than a year after Katie died, Ben dropped out of Stanford College and joined the army. Their father committed suicide one month later because he felt that Katie needed him where ever she was now. It was left to Alex to nurse their mother through her battle with cancer and the last years of her life.
Through the current story, those years and those deaths are still tearing Ben and Alex apart. If battling the enemy weren’t bad enough, and killing the Russian mob hoods that came after Alex, Ben must face down the constant insults and animosity from both Sarah and Alex. He can’t seem to make them understand that the bright lives they live are precarious things and the dark deeds that are done to keep them alive, whole, and free have to be done by someone able to do them. Someone very like him. And while information must be free…freedom comes with a price.
'Fault Line' is the first stand-alone thriller for Barry Eisler, a former CIA operative-turned-bestselling-novelist. Eisler has had major success with his John Rain book series for Signet, but this is his first Ballantine outing. The writing doesn’t lack anything though. The characterizations are deep, whether they be likeable or not, who ring deeply in the reader’s imagination. Well written ‘place’ and atmosphere carry the smart pace of the story, as well as the snappy, sure feel for dialog and scene set up. Eisler has written a great techno-based thriller with a lot of action and heart that won’t boggle the average reader. He is a pro at feeding the reader just enough technical details without derailing the story or dropping said reader out of the book, whether it be weapons or computer oriented. The transitions are very smooth.
Well done, Mr Eisler. I thoroughly enjoyed 'Fault Line', as I’m sure others will too.
PS: I have the ARC (advanced Reading Copy) of Fault Line and am willing to send it to a Barry Eisler fan who can’t wait until the February 2009 release of the book. First in, first served with a name and address can have it.