am 11. März 2009
Some books have an opening line that catches your attention. A few rare one have openers that grab you, shake you a bit, and compel you to keep turning pages until the last. Such is the case with Barry Eisler's first stand-alone thriller Fault Line. We read, "The last thing Richard Hilzoy thought before the bullet entered his brain was, Things are really looking up."
That's the starting whistle for a thrill ride story that boils with action as it simmers with national subterfuge, personal hubris, family loyalties , and sexual attraction. For the millions who believe there could never be another hero to equal John Rain, meet Ben Treven. He is one of three siblings in a family that moved often due to his father's work. This was no problem for Ben as he excelled at sports and was immediately accepted. Sister Katie was a sweet, beautiful girl who liked everyone and was liked in return. Alex, the youngest, was different - shy, smart and showed off his intelligence - not an attractive quality.
Ben fought bullies to defend Alex time and again but that mattered naught the night Katie died. Ben was supposed to have driven her home from a party but asked another boy to do so. A small decision then a fatal car accident.. Alex blames Ben for their sister's death; Ben blames himself and believes his parents also hold him responsible. Family wounds are so deep that they might never heal. "He (Ben) hadn't known it at the time, but family was a fragile thing. Like a house of cards." So easily collapsed.
Now, the elder Trevens are gone, Katie is gone. Ben and Alex remain - two brothers who despise each other and hope to never see one another again.
But then there is Hilzoy who was supposed to keep an appointment with Alex regarding a patent application for Obsidian, "the world's most advanced encryption algorithm, destined to render all other network security software obsolete". ....Hilzoy is a once-in-a-lifetime ticket" for Alex. Then suddenly he is dead, supposed ly due to a drug deal. Alex believes none of that. Next, Hank, a very healthy Hank who was advising Alex on a cryptography application had a fatal heart attack, and Alex is attacked in his own home. He has become a target and has no idea why. Alex is terrified and knows there is only one person in the world who can help him and that is Ben - where is he, how can Alex find him, and would he come to his aid?
Ben is in anywhere in the world, working with our military's Joint Special Operations Command. He's been through the CIA's Military Operations Training Course, and he's very, very good. He accepts the most dangerous assignments knowing that if he messes up he'll be left hanging out to dry. Sometimes he just waits for orders.
"He didn't go out much. There were periods in his life where he would go days without even speaking, where his whole world would shrink to no more than the dimensions of the walls around him. " When he thinks of Alex at all it is only to remind himself that he doesn't have to deal with Alex ever again. But, what if his younger brother sends a desperate plea for help?
For this reader Eisler has written his best work to date, and that's saying quite a bit after the Rain series. It is everything a thriller should be and more - rife with amazing plot twists, rich with familial bonds, and remarkable for its authenticity.
- Gail Cooke
I wonder why more authors don't develop plots where lawyers are hunted by cruel torturers and deadly assassins. It sounds like a winning plot device to me.
That said, Fault Line has some of the most awkward brother-brother psychology and misunderstandings that you could possibly read. Oops! So much for having a good premise.
Alex Treven was the quiet, well-behaved son who stayed home and dealt with the aftermath of a disintegrating family. His brother, Ben, was the wild one who escaped the in-person second guessing . . . but hangs onto the guilt. As a lawyer, Alex lives in a neat world where making partner and developing a reputation as a mover and shaker are what matters to him. Ben lives in a shadowy world where taking down enemies can be a matter of saving many lives, including his own. The two don't have much adult connection until Alex decides that he needs Ben's help, as he often did while they grew up. These aren't schoolyard bullies. These are serious enemies who don't plan to take any prisoners.
Ben comes to help, and Alex doesn't take his advice very seriously . . . at first. Gradually, it becomes clear that this is a game from which none of them may escape, including the beautiful, brainy Sarah Hosseini who also knows too much.
Because of the lethal threat, the story has credible thriller credentials. If it just weren't for the pain of reading about what the characters are thinking about and saying to one another, it would be a pretty good book. These characters, these thoughts, and these dialogues just don't fly. They didn't come alive for me except when Ben was doing his professional best . . . away from his brother.
I also think Mr. Eisler tried too hard to bring in a back story. This plot could have worked very well with just a front story . . . and been a lot easier to write.
I hope Mr. Eisler will stick closer to his action thriller roots in future books. Let it Rain!