Monday, October 13, 2008

Christopher Reich: Rules of Deception

I recently re-read Christopher Reich’s Numbered Account, which took place in Switzerland. Now I’ve read his new book, Rules of Deception, in which he returns to Switzerland. I did not remember all his books being Swiss, so I checked my shelves for a couple of his other books. I was right. One of them took place across Europe, the other in Washington, DC.

Rules of Deception follows one of my favorite approaches for a thriller. A man learns one fact, which then unravels a whole long line of discoveries that changes everything he believed. In this case, Dr. Jonathan Ransom is an American doctor with Doctors Without Borders. He is an avid, world-class mountaineer, currently serving at headquarters in Switzerland. His world is shaken when he is unable to rescue his wife from a crevasse following a skiing accident. But it is turned upside-down a day later when a letter arrives for her. Inside he finds two baggage claim checks.

When he picks up the luggage, he finds false identities, uncharacteristic clothes, and a great deal of cash. But worse, two men try to kill him to get the luggage. So what’s going on? Ransom certainly does not know.

As with other Reich novels, multiple threads of plot slowly draw together from widely separated beginnings. I’ve already mentioned Ransom discovering that his wife had a secret second life. In the mean time an American agent is hiding a terrorist suspect as they pass through Switzerland en route to letting the Syrians interrogate him. An assassin is killing Swiss businessmen, and the police are investigating. And further in the background, the Israelis are becoming very concerned about dramatic progress in Iran’s attempt to build a nuclear weapon.

As I said, these story lines start out very independently. But Reich draws them all together as the story unfolds. And I might add that as the lines come together, Ransom’s life become more complicated.

Ransom is a well developed, likeable character. So we care as he tries, first to find out what’s going on, and second to find a way out. Some of the bad guys are less well developed. I was especially disappointed that Reich relied on stereotypically rogue US intelligence operations to make the whole story work. I’ve never been able to buy into the kind of conspiracy cover-ups required to make those schemes work.

But overall, Rules of Deception provides everything I look for in a thriller. It is full of fast paced action, surprising twists and turns, and a character we care about. I was able to figure a few things out before Reich explicitly revealed them, and way before Ransom did. Of course Ransom did not get to see all the other plot lines unfolding, so I had a clear advantage over him. I loved the book and had a hard time putting it down.

1 comment:

Kit Bradley said...

This one sounds pretty interesting. I'll have to read a Reich novel sometime. You seem to particularly like mystery thrillers.