Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mystery Book Review: A Grave Breach by James Macomber

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of A Grave Breach by James Macomber. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.A Grave Breach by James Macomber

A Grave Breach by
A John Cann Thriller

Oceanview Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-933515-07-4 (1933515074)
ISBN-13: 978-1-933515-07-6 (9781933515076)
Publication Date: October 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): International lawyer John Cann would never defend a war criminal - particularly the Serb accused of horrific acts during the Bosnian War of the 1990s. But when his friend, mentor and Senior Partner Arthur Matsen needs his help, John has to make a tough decision.

Struggling with legal issues and ethical dilemmas in Europe, John's past is close behind. Never far from his mind is Janie Reston, the young college student viciously abused and left for dead by terrorists.

As John uncovers what lies deep in Matsen's past, Janie is in increasing peril. Will past, present and future intersect or will time run out?

Review: The third international legal thriller by James Macomber, A Grave Breach, is a riveting novel that is all the more remarkable as the individual components of the story are not particularly compelling. A true case of the total being far greater than the sum of its parts.

There are two parallel storylines in A Grave Breach that are only tenuously connected, though the author clearly intends for the reader to infer the similarities between them. One is a continuation from a previous novel and deals with the recovery of Janie Reston. Janie, who had suffered severe physical, emotional, and mental trauma as the result of an attack by terrorists, is being cared for at a private clinic in . A doctor there wants to use an experimental technique to learn more about what Janie remembers from the attack, and uses legal means to gain control of her care and treatment.

Though a potentially interesting subplot in and of itself, there are several problems with it. The legal discussions, though mercifully brief, involve exceedingly esoteric matters of law. There is no courtroom drama here, only backroom maneuvering between counsel and the judge. The medical case is equally obscure. Implicit memory is a recognized concept, though somewhat controversial in amnesic patients. And then there's the motivation of the doctor, which is never fully explained.

The other storyline, and the primary one, has lawyer John Cann off to Europe to defend a man, Dubran Mribic, held in custody by international authorities, at the request of the senior partner in his law firm. He finds himself inexplicitly threatened, and then, after learning the man he is to defend was involved with ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War and subsequently disappears, he teams up with Radovan "Rade" Nikolic, a member of the Serbian anti-terrorist authority, to find him and bring him to justice.

The most hard-core geo-political aficionado must be confused by the Balkans with its myriad ethnic groups and shifting alliances and conflicts over the centuries. The situation is made worse in A Grave Breach as 60 years of recent history is compressed into a few pages. Although critical to the story, it's confusing nonetheless. The legal matters discussed are even more arcane, largely involving procedural and jurisdictional issues. Again, no courtroom theatrics here, just a group of men from various government and international agency organizations discussing at length who has the authority to do what with Dubran Mribic.

Even the thriller aspect is fairly routine, in a Bond, James Bond sort of way. And yet, almost in spite of itself, it all comes together so very well. Macomber masterfully handles all these (sometimes tedious) topics and incorporates them into a page-turning book that is hard to put down. A Grave Breach is a first-rate thriller and is highly recommended.

Special thanks to Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity for providing an ARC of A Grave Breach for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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