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Friday, October 29, 2010

Reading List: The Lions of Lucerne

Thor, Brad. The Lions of Lucerne. New York: Pocket Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-7434-3674-8.
This was the author's first published novel, which introduced Scot Harvath, the ex-Navy SEAL around whose exploits his subsequent thrillers have centred. In the present book, Harvath has been recruited into the Secret Service and is in charge of the U.S. president's advance team and security detail for a ski trip to Utah which goes disastrously wrong when an avalanche wipes out the entire Secret Service field team except for Harvath, leaving the president missing and his daughter grievously injured. This shock is compounded manyfold when evidence indicates that the president has been kidnapped in an elaborate plot, which is soon confirmed by an incontrovertible communication from the kidnappers.

If things weren't bad enough for the seriously battered Harvath, still suffering from a concussion and “sprained body”, he finds himself framed as the person who leaked the security arrangements to the kidnappers and for the murder of two people trying to bring evidence regarding the plot to the attention of the authorities.

Harvath decides the only way he can clear his name is to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and rescue the president himself and so, grasping at the only thread of evidence he has, travels incognito to Switzerland, where he begins to unravel the details of the plot, identify the conspirators, and discover where the president is being held and devise a plan to rescue him. You don't often come across a Swiss super-villain, but there's one here, complete with an Alpine redoubt worth of a Bond blackguard.

This is a first novel, and it shows. Thor's mastery of the craft of the thriller, both in storytelling and technical detail, has improved over the years. If I hadn't read two of the more recent books, I might have been inclined to give it up after this one, but knowing what's coming, I'll continue to enjoy books from this series. In the present story, we have a vast disparity between the means (an intricate and extremely risky plot to kidnap the U.S. president) and the ends (derailing the passage of an alternative energy bill like “cap and trade”), carried out by an international conspiracy so vast that its security would almost be certain to be quickly compromised, but which is, instead, revealed through a series of fantastically improbable coincidences. Scot Harvath is pursued by two independent teams of assassins who may be the worst shots in the entire corpus of bestselling thrillers. And the Swiss authorities simply letting somebody go who smuggled a gun into Switzerland, sprayed gunfire around a Swiss city (damaging a historical landmark in the process), and then broke into a secret Swiss military base doesn't sound like the Switzerland with which I'm acquainted.

Still, this is well deserving of the designation “thriller”, and it will keep you turning the pages. It only improves from here, but I'd start with one of the more recent novels.

Posted at October 29, 2010 22:11