Coming out of the gates, this novel seemed really strong. The premise is that Evelyn Gallagher, a CIA employee, sees an abuse of power, and it’s a chase to the end to see whether the NSA director, a man who knows no moral limits, will have her terminated before she can notify someone that can stop him. I received this DRC free from Net Galley and Thomas and Mercer in exchange for an honest review. It is now available for purchase.
At about the thirty percent mark, the tension that the story needs to hold the reader’s attention is derailed by trite plot elements. We’ve seen all of this before. Take an old school spy story, throw Edward Snowden’s name around a lot, add some high tech elements that show how the US government compromises everyone’s privacy, and it’s a story out of a can. It is old material dressed up to look new, and if you haven’t read many spy novels, it might work for you.
The most obviously overworked device is the pairing of Manus and Delgado. Think of them as good cop and bad cop, or since they aren’t actually police, we can call them the good-bad-guy and the bad-bad-guy. For the first, there is a sympathetic back story and elements that suggest he might be redeemable. For the latter, over the top, nasty personal habits partner with sociopathic behaviors and thoughts to make him utter scum. Though a trifle deflated when I spotted it, I still wanted to enjoy the story, and was hoping to see some things that would permit me to call this a 3.5 star story, maybe round it up to 4 stars.
Not so much.
Evelyn, also called Evie, tricks men into doing stupid things by showing her cleavage and by acting helpless.
And the prose. “She knows too much.”
And try this one: “I’m your best friend right now…or your worst nightmare.”
At this point, I could not finish the book quickly enough. Get it over with so I can review it and move on.
We move on through vivid rape scenes and gratuitous violence, and the hackneyed prose factory rages on. I moaned when I came to the mention of a “disgruntled former employee” and of course, what kind of war hero isn’t described as “decorated”? Isn’t that sort of the definition of a….?
I never, never, never review a book without reading every word of the last ten percent, even if I have done some skimming first. Sometimes the ending is strong enough that what looked like bad writing turns out to be a clever device that is included for a hidden purpose. Sometimes several disparate threads get pulled together so cleanly and deftly that in justice, I am required to add stars back onto the rating. And so I finished this novel, but none of those things happened.
Author Barry Eisler is a former CIA employee (disgruntled?) who is on a mission to demonstrate how long the reach of government has become. He provides a lot of internet sources to back the technology in his fiction. But when all is said and done, I would probably be happier reading nonfiction by Eisler…or maybe fiction by someone else.