Friday, May 29, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Fault Line by Barry Eisler

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is thrilled (pun intended!) to be a participant in Barry Eisler's online book tour. We had the pleasure of reading his latest book, Fault Line, a review of which is published here.

Fault Line by Barry Eisler


Ballantine (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-345-50508-5 (0345505085)
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-50508-8 (9780345505088)
Publication Date: March 2009
List Price: $25.00

Review: Barry Eisler departs from his John Rain mysteries to craft a fast-paced, high-tech thriller set in the heart of Silicon Valley in Fault Line, his first non-series novel.

Alex Treven is an ambitious attorney looking to make partner at his firm. He sees his chance when a young inventor who has developed a new, revolutionary data encryption algorithm hires him to file all the necessary patent applications and associated paperwork. But when the inventor and his contact at the patent office are murdered within hours of each other, and he's threatened himself, Alex realizes something is seriously wrong. He knows of only one person to call, his estranged brother Ben. Ben, a covert ops agent for a secret agency within the US government, reluctantly agrees to help but doesn't know exactly what he's in for until someone tries to take him out. And he takes that personally, very personally.

Despite four murders committed within the first chapter or two, Fault Line starts fairly slowly for a thriller. The three principal characters (Alex, Ben, and an associate of Alex's, Sarah) are introduced separately but their stories are unremarkable. It isn't until they are together that the plot picks up speed ... and interest. Together they're battling an unknown force determined to acquire the encryption software, but individually there are also interpersonal conflicts: between Alex and Ben over the accidental death of their sister when they were teenagers; Alex's unexpressed affection for Sarah, which is unreciprocated; and Ben's suspicion that Sarah may be an embedded agent because of her Iranian heritage and Sarah's resentment that he believes that. Eisler handles these various subplots well while keeping the main plot moving forward, but there's really just a little too much going on here.

It isn't clear if Fault Line is intended to be a stand-alone novel or not but Ben, as the most dynamic and arguably most interesting character in the book, could readily sustain a series on his own. To be sure, the book appears to be written with a future screenplay in mind, with a simple plot that's easy for the audience to follow, lots of action, political intrigue with a high-tech slant, the obligatory romantic interlude, an inevitable twist, and so on. The ending is a little too pat (then again, most movies need to quickly wrap up loose threads as well), but overall, Fault Line is a thriller that successfully accomplishes its primary goal of entertaining the reader.

Special thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for providing a copy of Fault Line for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Silicon Valley: the eccentric inventor of a new encryption application is murdered in an apparent drug deal. Istanbul: a cynical undercover operative receives a frantic call from his estranged brother, a patent lawyer who believes he’ll be the next victim. And on the sun-drenched slopes of Sand Hill Road, California’s nerve center of money and technology, old family hurts sting anew as two brothers who share nothing but blood and bitterness wage a desperate battle against a faceless enemy.

Alex Treven has sacrificed everything to achieve his sole ambition: making partner in his high-tech law firm. But then the inventor of a technology Alex is banking on is murdered, the patent examiner who reviewed the innovation dies--and Alex himself narrowly escapes an attack in his own home. Off balance, out of ideas, and running out of time, he knows that the one person who can help him is the last person he’d ever ask: his brother.

Ben Treven is a military liaison element, an elite undercover soldier paid to “find, fix, and finish” high-value targets in the United States global war on terror.

Disenchanted with what he sees as America’s culture of denial and decadence, Ben lives his detached life in the shadows because the black ops world is all he really knows--and because other than Alex, whom he hasn’t spoken to since their mother died, his family is long gone.

But blood is thicker than water, and when Ben receives Alex’s frantic call he hurries to San Francisco to help him. Only then does Alex reveal that there’s another player who knows of the technology: Sarah Hosseini, a young Iranian American lawyer whom Alex has long secretly desired--and whom Ben immediately distrusts. As these three struggle to identify the forces attempting to silence them, Ben and Alex are forced to examine the events that drove them apart--even as Sarah’s presence, and her own secret yearnings, deepens the fault line between them.

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  1. Many thanks, MBN, glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Had a friend read Fault Line as well. Comments were surprisingly similar! Looks like it might be a good book for my summer reading list.


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