Saturday, August 23, 2008

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci

It was very frustrating reading this latest novel by Plum-Ucci. It is a real page-turner, but unfortunately, I couldn't devote all my time to reading it. Be prepared to only want to read when you pick up Streams of Babel. Set in New Jersey in 2002, it is the frightening, but all too plausible circumstance of bio- terrorism that is at its center. Cora Holman's mother, Aleese, has suffered a debilitating injury, is addicted to morphine, and has died of an overdose. But did she really? The autopsy indicates it really was a brain aneurysm. How coincidental is it that the mother of one of the paramedics responding to the emergency call is also sick with the flu and exhibits the same symptoms as Cora's mother. Determined to ward off the bug, Mrs. Ederman downs an extraordinary amount of water. It is to no avail and she also succumbs. Results of the autopsy - brain aneurysm. But how much does the water she and Cora's mother drank have to d0 with their deaths?

The novel is told in alternating voices of Cora Holman, Scott and Owen Ederman, Rain Steckman whose father is head of USIC (US Intelligence Coalition), Shazhad Hamdani, a young Pakistani who is v-spying for the USIC, and
Tyler Ping, a young Korean who eats pills and hacks computers. Shazhad has intercepted chatter about Red Vinegar and the intent to kill a significant number of people in Colony One. But will he be able to get information to the U.S. officials quickly enough to save the lives of Rain, Cora, and Owen?

The friendship and interaction among the teens is natural and believable. The idea of water supplies being targets for terrorists is more than frightening and credibly portrayed. As the terrorists are exposed the reader has a sense of urgency to finish the book and find that they are aptly punished. But, is that reality? The suspense will hold the reader beyond the final page of the book. A great solid teen-read!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva

Last year I discovered Daniel Silva and I spent last summer reading all 7 of his Gabriel Allon novels. I couldn't wait for his new book, Moscow Rules to come out this summer. I wasn't disappointed. Allon is an agent for the Israeli Mossad and is also an incredibly gifted art restorer. Silva tackles world issues through the activities of Allon and has earned his place, in my opinion, next to Robert Ludlum and Frederick Forsythe, two of my favorite authors in the spy and international intrigue genre. Moscow Rules begins with the horrible death of Aleksandre Lubin, a Russian journalist, in France. He has information about a Russian plot to sell arms to terrorists. Allon is called from his honeymoon in Umbria to make contact with a another Russian journalist in Rome to get information about Lubin's death and of the impending terrorist activities. The meeting goes sour and Allon becomes fully involved in the investigation, much to the chagrin of his new wife, also an Israeli agent.

The action moves from Rome to London to Moscow all with lightning speed. On the journey Ari Shamron, Sarah Bancroft, Eli Lavon, and Uzi Navot, characters from previous Silva novels, join the investigation. It is journey that keeps you on the edge of your seat as Allon, the English, American, and French governments attempt to capture ringleader Ivan Kharkhov and intercept the shipment. Adding to the intrigue is the willingness of Kharkhov's wife Elena to cooperate with Allon. As the plan is fabricated and the mission becomes clear, we know that the danger to all involved is life-threatening and we are fascinated as to how Ivan will be thwarted and Elena and intelligence agents will get out alive. Mindful of the "Moscow Rules," the rules of engagement developed by the CIA during the Cold War Period, each of the operatives knows his or her role and must not deviate from it.

There is no shortage of plot twists and turns in this novel as we revel in Silva's magnificent use of language and description. One feels the quiet and comfort of Umbria, the rich life of Saint-Tropez, and the tenseness of clandestine meetings in Washington, London, and Moscow. You just can't get enough. And so the wait commences until the next thriller by Daniel Silva is published.