Lavanya Karthik: Lavanya is from Mumbai, India and is a licensed
architect and consultant in environmental management. She lives in
Mumbai with her husband and six-year old daughter. She loves reading
and enjoys a diverse range of authors across genres.
Author: Paul Martin
Publisher: Millennial Mind Publishing
ISBN: 978- 1-58982-492-8.
This new thriller
by author Paul Martin Midden offers an unusual premise - that America
could be threatened by home grown terrorists from within her
boundaries. Set in Washington D. C., Toxin explores the chilling
possibility of religious fundamentalists with support from within the
US government, attempting to take over the country. Isolated
militia strikes within America have been explored before in the
thriller genre, but this book takes the idea a step further - it
suggests a nexus between fanatical evangelists and powerful US
senators, with the means to unleash well planned terror attacks
across the country.
Jake Telemark is a young and dedicated junior Senator from Wisconsin, with a secret in his past that he has hoped to bury forever. Yet this secret causes the intriguing Isadore Hathaway to seek him out and present him with a preposterous conspiracy theory and an even more alarming request - that he assassinate twelve influential men, part of a secret organization called the Bookkeepers. Telemark’s disbelief in her story is short lived; increasingly violent attacks on innocent citizens across the country force him to reconsider her request and confront his demons. Drawn together, Hathaway and Telemark begin a passionate relationship even as they race against time to stop the Bookkeepers.
The book follows up its ambitious premise with a brisk, action packed story that neatly combines the political with the psychological. Written in the first person, the book is as much about Telemark’s inner conflict as it is about the duo’s attempts to destroy a threat to national security. The author is a practicing psychologist, which perhaps explains the attention paid to the hero’s anguish over his choices and his feelings for Hathaway. While these passages add texture to the character, they do also occasionally weaken the tension in the plot. Further, some small quirks in these otherwise believable characters annoy. Telemark, for instance, has a rather disconcerting tendency to burst into tears under stress, which seems odd considering how much in his element he seems when he’s actually plotting and executing kills. Hathaway too begins as a steely and driven woman, yet rapidly dissolves into a rather stereotypical female character from your average hero-driven thriller. And after a build up spanning most of the novel, the final insignificance of the intriguing Jefferson to the narrative is confusing.
One would think that an organization of the scale and nature of the Bookkeepers would necessarily be paranoid about infiltration. Yet a prominently liberal senator, mentored by a man the organization has found it necessary to murder, gains easy and unquestioned access to its headquarters. This aspect struck me as awry in an otherwise well defined plotline. The climax of the book is also rather weak. Call me a fan of convention, but an enemy this vicious, and a hero as interesting as Telemark, surely merited a far more dramatic finale than the silent, remotely controlled one this book offers.
These issues apart, Toxin offers thriller buffs an enigmatic hero, a startling new enemy and a gripping, suspenseful page turner.
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