FAULT LINE, by Barry Eisler
Ballantine Books, March, 2009
Hardcover, $25.00 ($28.00 Canada)
Reviewed by Larry W. Chavis
The United States has a long and treasured heritage of respect for the rights of the individual, personal liberty, and the rule of law. While it certainly hasn’t always played out that way in our history – one can think of our less-than-honorable treatment of the Native Americans, for example – still, this has been the tradition, a tradition that, in recent years, post 9-11, has taken a hit in the vast expansion of government powers under the rubric of national security. Well-meaning, patriotic Americans have fallen out on both sides of the divide: how much principle must we sacrifice for security? Should we take a suicidal stand on principle in the face of ruthless enemies? For lovers of our country’s heritage of liberty, these questions are hard and real.
They become personal for the primary characters in Barry Eisler’s FAULT LINE: Alex Treven, an up-and-coming patent lawyer, and his Iranian-American assistant, Sarah Hosseini, whose latest project casts them into a violent world for which their legal and social skills give little preparation, and Ben Treven, Alex’s long-estranged older brother, a black-ops undercover soldier/assassin who has rationalized his every action under the premise, “In a dirty fight, one fights dirty.” These three are thrown together under circumstances that cause each, in turn, to question the assumptions that undergird their respective world views. The tensions run high, as the people after Obsidian, a revolutionary new encryption technology, freely use murder in their quest. Alex, escaping one attack, is forced to turn to the brother to whom he hasn’t spoken in years and who he blames for the destruction of his family. Ben, forced by blood-ties to come to his brother’s aid, must battle not only his brother’s fraternal animosity, but his own suspicions of Sarah. She, no more trustful of Ben, must deal with the conflict of her concept of law and order and the necessity of Ben’s actions just to keep them all alive. Add to all this betrayal in high places and low, and one has a thriller that will keep the pages turning long after bedtime. Eisler’s experiences in the legal system and covert CIA world inform the plot and make it authentic-feeling. This is a good book.