In just a few years, and only a handful of books, Barry Eisler has risen to the top of the heap of thriller authors via his character, John Rain, half-Japanese, half-American, but all-assassin. Over the course of six books, readers were entertained, enlightened, even edified, as Barry shared his knowledge and expertise in matters ranging from spycraft to drinking tea.
But with his new novel, Fault Line, Barry ratchets up his game to an entirely new level. This novel represents a departure for Barry as he introduces all new characters. (No John Rain, although there is one playful remark.) Barry tells a tale of two brothers, estranged since their teenaged years when their sister died in an avoidable car accident. One brother, Alex, becomes an attorney in Silicon Valley while the other brother, Ben, becomes a "Military Liason Element" -- an assassin for the US military. (Ben is not in Rain's league of ability.) Enter the woman, Sarah Hosseini, who beguiles both brothers, and you have more than the stereotypical triangle...
Barry jump-starts the novel with a whiz-bang first chapter, as he deftly shares scene, setting, characters, risk, peril, death, and enough questions to cause readers to continue reading. Barry showcases his growing writing chops by a subtle change of perspective from 3rd person omniscient in the first chapter's opening paragraph to (almost-) first person in its final paragraph -- and for the same event. Brilliant!
Barry peppers the story with knowledge about many topics, current events included. Also included is Barry's penchant for delving deeply into the nature of identity, and especially of relationships (familial, collegial, community); for example, Ben, who 'profiles' for a living (literally and figuratively), seems unable to 'profile' the people closest to him, so he keeps them at a remove.
Fault Line, on sale now at all booksellers, is not Barry Eisler's best novel -- he improves with each new book -- but it is excellent fodder for reading at the beach or on the plane, and, thanks to the fascinating digressions, much more.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist