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Barry Eisler

Dear Author

GUEST REVIEW: Fault Line by Barry Eisler

Dear Mr. Eisler,

cover image for Fault LineI was literally in the middle of writing this review when the news broke on Tuesday that an Iranian nuclear physics professor was killed by a bomb left outside his home in Tehran. Now I know that the circumstances of this man’s murder have nothing in common with one of the opening scenes in your book other than the words “Iranian nuclear scientist,” but I must confess that I am quite sure I would not have paid nearly as much attention to that news story had I not just finished reading your latest book,Fault Line. I am reminded that real life is as compelling and as fraught with peril as is the best suspense fiction. And that sometimes the two intersect in the most unexpected of ways.

This is not the first guest review of your book to appear here. Carolyn Jewel  wrote one back in December that appeared before I had a chance to even start reading the copy Jane so kindly gave me. I’m glad I read Carolyn’s review first because her perspective as a writer, technology sector worker, and resident of the Bay Area gave your book a great deal of credibility. I am none of those three things. I am a working mom from the midwest who devours about 4 romances a week. I would have taken the book at face value anyway, but it’s nice to know that the book is grounded in reality. You include a lot of detail in the book that is really helpful in setting your scenes–whether in the location is Istanbul or Palo Alto. I liked the way that you gave me a feel for two places that are equally foreign to me.

For those who don’t know,  Fault Line is primarily a suspense story involving a special piece of encryption software called Obsidian. The developer of the software is murdered just before he is to meet with his attorney, Alex Trevan. Alex is responsible for obtaining a patent for Obsidian as well as finding venture capitalists to bring Obsidian to market. Alex stands to gain a great deal should Obsidian perform as promised. When one of Alex’s friends who works in the US Patent Office, and was helping keep Alex informed about the patent’s status, suddenly also turns up dead, Alex becomes suspicious. But  then someone breaks into Alex’s house in the middle of the night and  Alex knows he needs help. So he turns to his older brother, Ben, an army soldier who is an assasin for the US government’s war on terror. They’ve been estranged for many years. Ben comes home to Palo Alto to help. It’s his first trip there since the death of their mother and old hurts and resentments surface time and again as they attempt to solve the mystery of who is after Obsidian and why. Also mixed up in the whole affair is Sarah Hosseini, an attractive young lawyer in Alex’s firm who happens to be an Iranian American.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, this book is not a romance. Nonetheless, I think it would appeal to other romance readers like myself because we like to read about relationships, or more specifically, relationships that have a positive outcome. Personally, I was just as interested in what was going on between Ben and Alex (as well as how Sarah factored in) as I was in the race to protect Obsidian and save Alex and Sarah’s lives. Ben and Alex had seen their family torn apart by a tragedy that also left behind a good deal of guilt and bitterness. I liked the way you used the circumstances surrounding Obsidian to reveal just what kind of men Ben and Alex had become–what their strengths and weaknesses were, and how they had moved on (or not) from the family tragedy. As the stress builds over their circumstances, more and more of that anger and bitterness is let out until they finally really talk to one another. I also really liked the way that both Ben and Alex had the opportunity to do heroic stuff–in other words, the book is not all about Ben riding to the rescue.

But there is also the developing relationship between Ben and Sarah that would appeal to other romance readers. There is some fabulous dialogue between the two of them. Ben leaps to conclusions about Sarah simply because of her race–he is instantly suspicious of her. Sarah stands up to him and challenges his thinking. In return, Ben recognizes that Sarah has made some safe choices in her life and I sense he’s challenging her to take risks. When lust blooms between them it fits, and the romance reader in me hopes that there will be a lot more to this relationship–in a future book perhaps?

This book has a great opening line: “The last thing Richard Hilzoy thought before the bullet entered his brain was, Things are really looking up.” That caught my attention. But there was a lot of ground to cover before Ben and Alex got together. According to my Stanza reader (I read an e-copy on my ipod touch), I was 30% into the book when Alex finally emailed Ben. I found that first 30% a little slow-going at times. The pace was much faster once Ben & Alex were together and I pretty much read straight through from there. I give this book a solid B+.

I will be watching for your next book and perhaps an opportunity to meet you at the RT book signing this spring. Meanwhile, I’ll be looking for some of your older titles. Finally, and again, my thanks to Jane and the DA crew for my copy of Fault Line and the chance to write this review.

“She makes her own quilts”–Prov. 31:22 (NJB)

This book can be purchased at Amazon (affiliate link) or in ebook format from Sony (non affiliate link) or other etailers.

GUEST REVIEW: Fault Line by Barry Eisler

GUEST REVIEW: Fault Line by Barry Eisler

cover image of Fault Line by Barry EislerDear Mr. Eisler:

Fault Line was the first book of yours that I’d read. I’ve since read more, by the way. In the past, I have worked at Intellectual Property law firms as well as in the legal department of a Bio-Tech firm, so I am intimate with the portion of Fault Line that deals with patent prosecution and the highly educated and degreed men and women who do this kind of work. I am also currently employed in the technology sector and while I do not work directly in the security end of IT, my job daily involves many of the issues involved with the security software that is at the heart of the plot of Fault Line. Lastly, I live in the Bay Area and have been to most of the Northern California areas where Fault Line takes place. I found Fault Line to be quite accurate in those respects and I say this with the painful experience of having read books in which authors did not do any research worthy of the noun into the technology they decided to write about. So thank you, Mr. Eisler, for getting it right.

Alex Treven is an intellectual property attorney who’s brought on a client of his own to the firm where he hopes to make partner. The client’s product, a computer security software application, has the potential for immense profits. His hopes unravel when his client is murdered. When the murders continue, it’s clear someone is eliminating everyone assoiciated with the software. Alex and Sarah Hossieni, a beautiful junior associate of Iranian heritage assigned to work with him on the patent application, are the obvious next targets. Correctly afraid he’s in over his head, Alex is left with no choice but to ask his estranged military-operative brother for help.

I confess I was a bit put off by the opening of Fault Lines. A great deal of backstory gets laid down in the first twenty to thirty pages (an estimate, since I was reading on my iPhone) and I started feeling anxious for things to get started.

Two main backstory lines are important to Fault Line; the security software program for which people are being killed on page one and throughout the book, and the family history between the two male protagonists, brothers Alex and Ben Treven.

Initially I was puzzled by Alex who I mistook for the protagonist and found to be oddly beta for the hero of a political thriller. Alex is quickly in physical peril, and for a bit I wasn’t at all sure how this guy was going to survive his story. Patent attorneys do not typically learn the skills required to survive attempted assassinations.

To an experienced reader of Romance (which I am) Alex’s brother Ben is immediately identifiable as Hero Material. In fact, Ben was so precisely the kind of man who is the protagonist of a military Romance that I briefly floundered a bit as I tried to figure out what kind of book I was reading. A traditional political military thriller or a Romance? Or was Fault Line going to be a book that attempted a fusion? Oh, how I have been dying for someone to do this!

Ben Treven is a shooter for US government-sponsored Black Ops, and we meet him as he is carrying out the assassination of two Iranian nuclear scientists. He’s emotionally isolated and (to a romance reader) desperately in need of the love of a good woman. But wait! Isn’t Alex in love with Sarah, the only possible Heroine of any romance that might take place? Why, yes, he is! Very interesting, Mr. Eisler. Gotta keep turning pages to find out how that works out.

Fortunately, I got myself properly oriented to the story -’ that is, open minded about where Alex and Ben were headed as dual protagonists and absorbed in the many fascinating dynamics laid out on the pages. Alex and Sarah have the smarts and knowledge required to solve the mystery surrounding the security software while Ben has what it takes to keep them alive and investiate just who is behind the killings while the software mystery is being solved. The various story lines bend back around, intertwine and intersect in intriguing and chilling ways up to and including the ending.

Ben eventually takes over as the protagonist of the story, but Alex remains a strong second protagonist who is vital to the resolution. Ben thinks he’s safe in his tightly controlled world only to gradually suspect betrayal of the worst and potentially fatal sort. Alex and Ben have a truckload of childhood issues to either resolve or figure out how to keep from igniting before the past ends up getting them killed in the present. Alex wants Sarah. Ben wants Sarah and wishes he didn’t. Sarah knows her own mind but really, what woman can resist the likes of Ben after he proves there’s a softer side under that damaged exterior? It’s this portion of the book that is most strongly a Romance. With a capital R.

Most female readers of military thrillers (we are legion, just ask Lee Child) are familiar with the traditional fate of the woman unfortunate enough to fall for the hero. At best, she’s doomed to be dumped while the hero moves on with hardly a regret. Often, however, she’s doomed to die. Fault Line breaks with this tradition. Sarah has scenes in her point of view, which means readers get a direct line to her doubts about Ben and her eventual resolution of most of them. These scenes make Sarah a more fully realized female character than is usual for a thriller.

The romance element of this story is wonderfully done and done without sacrificing the unraveling mystery and resolution as the disparate plot lines come together. Unlike Alex and Ben, however, Sarah is not in a situation that requires her personal or emotional transformation in order to survive. Ultimately, the story is not about the relationship between her and Ben. For this reason, Fault Line is not a romance. That isn’t a criticism, by the way. It’s merely an observation.

I suspect that for readers of military thrillers the deeper focus on Sarah and the relationship between Sarah and Ben must seem novel. Ben is challenged and transformed (in part) by his relationship with Sarah. And yet, she’s not there just so Ben gets to have sex. In fact, I’d even say that in at least one key scene, Ben is there so Sarah gets to have sex. The focus given to the sex scenes and their unusal flip from the male-centric to the female-centric is refreshing. For readers familiar with romance, of course, this is nothing new.

Fault Line is a gripping political/military thriller that moves quickly and features one of the more fully dimensional female characters I’ve seen in the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed Fault Line for all the reasons I enjoy military thrillers and for many of the reasons I enjoy romance.


~Carolyn Jewel

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.