Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
For most of his career Christopher Reich has been thought of as a financial thriller writer for whom a phrase such as “numbered account” not only gave him a title, it also gave him a subject. More recently he has entered into Robert Ludlum’s area of paranoid international thrillers. Rules of Vengeance is his second in that style. Rather oddly, Arrow, his publishers, hardly mention that this book has a backstory, a complete previous novel, Rules of Deception, nor that there will be a concluding volume to the trilogy.
If you like paranoia then this series will be the one for you, and if you are a fan of the mathematician Kurt Goedel and his theory of incompleteness then you may be near heaven. Otherwise, like a bad Buddhist you are only going to have glimpses of wholeness. Don’t worry, though, you won’t be alone: impersonation, double-crossing, and the search for meaning are what this book is all about. Those things, and very big explosions. Potentially very big explosions.
Previously, in Rules of Deception
, Jonathan Ransom discovered that his wife Emma was a spy, and only at the end of the book discovered that she was working for us, when all along it had seemed she was working for them. Still they had to part. Now Ransom, a doctor who has been working for Medicins Sans Frontiers in Africa, is flying into London to attend a medical conference. He knows he is being watched but his wife still manages to arrange a liaison with him.
However, Ransom does not realise how many organisations are interested in him.
What only we readers know is that many – if not all - of those organisations, both ours and theirs, do not trust each other. Unfortunately for Ransom he is in the street when his wife appears to give the signal to explode a car bomb. She also appears to give him the signal to shelter. What is a man to do when no one believes him? He goes on the run across Europe, of course.
What is Emma doing, and why? What was the purpose of the car bomb?
On the basis that improbabilities must be ratcheted up, that bomb was simply a diversion, and it worked. In an evacuated government building someone was able to steal a very important, and unencrypted, laptop computer. That is the key to some potentially bigger bangs.
You can imagine some faint suggestions for this story in reality if you remember news items from the past few years – BP being thrown out of Russia in some dubious deals; the exposure of the American agent Valerie Plame by Dubya’s officials; the role of the weapons inspectors and AEIA in Iraq and Iran.
Christopher Reich even seems to get his London geography right, but then goes bonkers. He has London girls who put mayo on their chips rather than vinegar, Oxford University students’ biographies in their Yearbooks, Interpol headquarters in Luxembourg rather than Lyons, and cigarette boats racing across the Channel. Perhaps, though, all those things are normal in a world where nothing is what it seems, nor any meeting nor any confrontation is intended to be what it appears to be. Readers of Robert Ludlum, as I say, you may find this another book for you; I was not so sure.