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We're Ken Hebenstreit and Sharlan Douglas, blogging here about the books we love: Mysteries, suspense, crime fiction. If you want to comment on one of our postings, click on its headline.

Archive for the ‘Espionage/spy’ Category

Inside Out by Barry Eisler

We first met military operative Ben Teven in Eisler’s 2009 Fault Line.  In Inside Out, he is tracking down incriminating government torture videotapes, stolen by an assassin even more skilled and ruthless than Ben.  Of course that involves international flights and lots of  killing and general mayhem.  Parallel to his search we see the political operators — CIA, Vice Presidential advisors and Ben’s own superiors — maneuvering for their professional survival and even their lives.

In the first part of the book, Ben travels and spies with a beautiful FBI agent.  In these formulaic books, such characters usually turn into a tight, intuitive team to beat the bad guys, but Eisler splits them up, and their eventual reunion is unsatisfying.   They do engage in a long sex scene, which, in his acknowledgements, Eisler attributes it to Jane Litte of dearauthor.com and Sarah Wendell of smartbitchestrashybooks.com.

“If there’s something you don’t like about the scene in question, I hope it goes without saying that Jane and Sarah are entirely to blame.”  OK, ladies (and Barry), here it is:  The scene is excessive, improbable and gratuitous and derails the book’s momentum.

More so than most such action-novel characters, Ben analyses his behavior and motivation and develops a better understanding of himself.   He struggles to reconcile his growing awareness with the political revelations at the end of the book, leaving a state of mind and of the world of espionage that almost guarantees a sequel.

Alex Berenson’s The Silent Man

By Sharlan Douglas

Can’t say too much, because Ken still has to read it, but …

Berenson’s first book, The Faithful Spy, is one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read.  In this latest book he continues to demonstrate his plotting skill and his  knowledge of Muslim terrorism, but I fear  he may have worn out John Wells as a subject.  Berenson has to invent increasingly implausible circumstances to insert Wells into the action.  That’s OK in something like the Vince Flynn books — they don’t even pretend to resemble reality – -but the versimilitude of The Faithful Spy leaves my hungry for a little  more logic.

Tom Clancy fans will love the details on how to manufacture a nuclear weapon.  I just kept thinking COMSUBSYNCPAC.

Shar and Ken have fallen for John Rain

In 2002, Barry Eisler published the first in a series of books about a John Rain, Japanese assassin-for-hire who specializes in making his victims’ death look accidental.  Rain uses a lot of our favorite spook craft as he glides through the shadowy alleys and neon-lit shopping strips of Tokyo and beyond, tricks Eisler picked up in a three-year stint with the CIA.  Eisler draws on his own martial arts training for Rain’s hand-to-hand encounters.

Eisler gives Rain a poet’s melancholy, in a solo existence underscored by classic jazz and flavored with single malt scotches.

Ken was tearing through the six-book series so fast he had to force himself to take a break.

We have the first book, Rain Fall, in inventory and The Last Assassin and Requiem for an Assassin ready to go up to the web, so call if you’re interested in those.

Here’s Eisler’s home page.